Naum Gabo

Linear Construction No. 1


In Tate Britain
Naum Gabo 1890–1977
Perspex and nylon
Object: 349 x 349 x 89 mm
Presented by Miss Madge Pulsford 1958

Display caption

Russian-born constructivist Naum Gabo first came to England in 1935, and spent the war years in Cornwall. It was there, near St Ives, that he began to use nylon filament in his sculpture. Space and time remained Gabo’s main artistic preoccupations and with his sculpture he aimed to produce a self-contained object that would suggest the universal and infinite. Writing of Gabo’s work, the critic Herbert Read said that it hovered ‘between the visible and the invisible, the material and the immaterial’, becoming ‘the crystallization of the purest sensibility’.

Gallery label, September 2016

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Catalogue entry

Naum Gabo 1890-1977

T00191 Linear Construction No.1, Variation 1942-3

Not inscribed
Plastic with nylon threads, 13 2/5 x 13 3/4 x 3 9/16 (35 x 35 x 9); a fraction off square
Presented by Miss Madge Pulsford 1958
Prov: Miss Madge Pulsford, Woking (purchased from the artist 1946)
Exh: Naum Gabo: The Constructive Process, Tate Gallery, November 1976-January 1977 (71, repr.)
Lit: Herbert Read and Leslie Martin, Gabo: Constructions, Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Engravings (London 1957), p.184
Repr: Michael Compton, Optical and Kinetic Art (London 1967), pl.13; The Tate Gallery (London 1969), p.151

Gabo wrote to Miss Pulsford when she bought this construction that its date was winter 1942-3 and that he reserved the right to make further copies if required: 'But as my work cannot be repeated mechanically or cast, I have to do the work anew every time so that each piece is really an original' (letter of 18 March 1946).

Though referred to at that time simply as 'Linear Construction', it is of the type later known as 'Linear Construction No.1, Variation'. The number distinguishes it from several quite different sculptures made subsequently which are known as 'Linear Construction No.2' and so on, while 'Variation' indicates that it differs from the original version in having a stepped-back (or winged) treatment on two sides instead of having all four sides the same. The original model for 'Linear Construction No.1' measuring 10 x 10 x 2.5cm belongs to Nina S. Gabo, and there seem to be altogether seventeen or eighteen versions of 'Linear Construction No.1' and 'Linear Construction No.1, Variation', with various differences in their size and (in the case of 'Linear Construction No.1, Variation') the stepped-back treatment of the two sides. Gabo confirmed on 30 September 1975 that this particular piece, in which the 'step' is quite small, was the first version of the 'Variation' and was made about 1942-3. In some of the later pieces, such as the one in the Phillips Collection, Washington, DC (bought from him in 1948 and measuring 61.5 x 61.5 x 24.8cm), the stepped-back treatment is much more pronounced.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.251-2, reproduced p.251

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