Duncan Grant

The Queen of Sheba


Not on display

Duncan Grant 1885–1978
Oil paint on plywood
Support: 1200 × 1200 mm
frame: 1335 × 1338 × 100 mm
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1917

Display caption

Grant painted this in the spring of 1912 as part of an abortive decorative scheme for Newnham College, Cambridge. His cousin, Pernel Strachey, had been a student there and later became its Principal. Grant based the Queen of Sheba on Pernel Strachey, and King Solomon upon her brother, Grant’s great friend the writer Lytton Strachey. Lytton had a long square-cut auburn beard at this time, and Grant gives this physical attribute to King Solomon. Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet had been giving performances in London and Grant’s costumes probably owe a debt to this Russian influence. Also Karl Goldmark’s opera The Queen of Sheba was premièred in London in the winter of 1911.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry

Not inscribed.
Oil on plywood, 47 1/4×47 1/4 (120×120).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1917.
Coll: Purchased by Roger Fry from the artist and sold to the C.A.S. 1912.
Exh: Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition, Grafton Galleries, October–December 1912 (74); Sandon Society, Bluecoat Chambers, Liverpool, February–March 1913 (24); C.A.S, First Public Exhibition in London, Goupil Gallery, April 1913 (17); Twentieth Century Art, Whitechapel Art Gallery, May–June 1914 (364); Tate Gallery, May–June 1959, and Arts Council tour, 1959 (24).
Lit: Mary Chamot, Modern Painting in England, 1937, p.48.
Repr: Tate Gallery Illustrations, 1928, pl.108; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, 1962, p.253.

The painting was undertaken as a sketch for a scheme of decoration in part of the cloister at Newnham College, Cambridge, under the auspices of Miss Jane Harrison. Other artists were to take part in the scheme, but eventually it came to nothing and this was the only design produced. It was painted at Brunswick Square in 1912.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I


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