Naum Gabo

Model for ‘Spheric Theme’


Not on display

Naum Gabo 1890–1977
Plastic (cellulose acetate)
Object: 83 × 102 × 83 mm
Presented by the artist 1977

Display caption

Many of Gabo's sculptures first appeared as tiny models. They were often projects for monumental public schemes, rarely achieved, in which sculpture and architecture came together. His proposal that Monument for an Airport could be used to advertise Imperial Airways, as either a desk display or an outdoor sculpture, was never realised. Model for 'Torsion', however, was eventually translated into a large fountain outside St Thomas' Hospital in London. Gabo's increasing concern, from the late 1930s, with the aesthetic aspect of his work at the expense of the industrial can be seen in Model for 'Construction in Space "Crystal"'.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Naum Gabo 1890-1977

T02173 Model for 'Spheric Theme' c.1937

Not inscribed
Translucent plastic, 4 3/4 x 3 5/8 x 3 5/8 (12 x 9.2 x 9.2)
Presented by the artist 1977
Exh: Naum Gabo: The Constructive Process, Tate Gallery, November 1976-January 1977 (52)

This work, T02174 and T02176 are small models with which Gabo explored various possibilities of the 'Spheric Theme' in different positions and materials. The 1976-7 exhibition at the Tate also included two further models, one in plastic and one in bronze, both resting on their sides, which belong to private collections (catalogue nos. 50, repr. and 54). He later developed the theme in a number of larger versions.

He wrote of the 'Spheric Theme' as follows:

'The Spheric Theme is the result of many years' research for a constructive method of transferring my perception of space in terms of visual experience of it. The angular structure of the stereometric cube which I applied in my previous constructions since 1915, I found in elementary stereometry. It very soon proved insufficient to many an image which was growing in me where the vision of space as a sculptural element had to play a greater role than in my previous images.

'I felt that the visual character of space is not angular: that to transfer the perception of space into sculptural terms, it has to be spheric. I was looking for some kind of an indication in the scientific world, where a method of spheric structure could perhaps be found.

'I found no answer in graphic terms in science which would satisfy my vision of space. I consider that in this work of mine there is a satisfactory solution to that problem. Instead of indicating space by an angular intersection of planes, I enclose the space in one curved continuous surface. I eliminate angularity in space construction and give space the curved character which it has to my perception. I have used this system since 1936.

'I have made several variations on this theme in order to show its structural possibilities. There is an immense variety of images which a constructive sculptor may conceive which can be executed with the help of this system. There are some who consider my "Spheric Theme" as an image of infinity. To my mind the image of infinity could not be an image which turns back on itself. I feel in this Spheric Theme continuity rather than infinity.' (This statement was first published in Herbert Read and Leslie Martin, Gabo: Constructions, Sculpture, Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, London 1957, between pls. 64 and 65).

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.247-8, reproduced p.247

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