Duncan Grant

Interior at Gordon Square


In Tate Modern

Duncan Grant 1885–1978
Oil paint on wood
Support: 400 × 321 mm
frame: 450 × 370 × 50 mm
Purchased 1969

Display caption

This painting shows the front and back rooms of 46 Gordon Square in London. Grant lived there with fellow artist, Vanessa Bell. The scene features a view of a long sofa, with two windows beyond, one in the centre of the picture and one to the right. The green square in the background shows the view into the square and trees beyond. Immediately through the door are possibly the overlapping backs of paintings stacked against the wall. The composition is made up of layered geometric shapes. This shows that Grant was familiar with cubism, the new art movement that was developing in France. Cubist artists are known for bringing different viewpoints together in the same picture. This results in paintings that appear fragmented and abstracted.

Gallery label, August 2020

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Catalogue entry

Duncan Grant b. 1885
T01143 INTERIOR AT GORDON SQUARE circa 1915 Not inscribed.
Oil on panel, 15¾×12⅝ (40×32).
Purchased from the artist (Knapping Fund) 1969.

The artist told the compiler (conversation of 30 September 1969, of which he subsequently approved this account) that T01143 was painted in about 1915. It is a view, painted from an inner room, of the first-floor drawing room at 46 Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, which overlooked the square and trees. A long sofa (designed by Vanessa Bell) on which is a cushion, is seen through the doorway, with two windows beyond, one in the centre of the picture and one at the right. To the right immediately through the door are seen what are possibly the overlapping backs of paintings stacked against the near wall of the drawing room. T01143 was painted on the spot but the exact appearances of objects were deliberately altered in an attempt to give an impression of the space as it seemed to the artist. Shortly before painting T01143, Duncan Grant had made a careful copy of a recent Picasso which Roger Fry had just bought, ‘Head of a Man’ 1913 (oil and charcoal on paper, 24½×18¼ ins, Zervos II 431). He felt that this involvement might have influenced the appearance of T01143. The illusion of planes overlapping in space is common to both works.

When T01143 was complete, Duncan Grant wanted to do a larger version and as it already existed as a painting he used the design as the basis for a collage of painted and cut paper and one cut-out canvas fragment, on board 30½×25½ ins (coll: Hon Jacob Rothschild). The papers were cut from rolls already painted by the artist which he had available for various uses. The collage follows the design of the painting fairly closely, but the colours are different. In T01143 the artist had attempted to make each painted shape very definite and distinct; one aim of using collage in the larger version was to accentuate this quality.

Shortly after painting T01143, Duncan Grant executed at least one entirely non-representational painting close in idiom to T01143. Now entitled ‘The White Jug’ (Exh. Duncan Grant and his World, Wildenstein, 1964 (30), where dated 1914; this should have read ‘c. 1916’), it was an entirely rectilinear design on panel, 41×16½ ins, conceived and completed as an abstract painting. Some five years later, the artist painted a white jug, lemon and small decorative passages over the lower quarter of the panel but most of the original scheme survives.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1968-70, London 1970


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