Duncan Grant

The Tub


Not on display

Duncan Grant 1885–1978
Watercolour and wax on paper on canvas
Support: 762 × 559 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1965

Display caption

Grant went to art school in Paris in 1907, and knew both Matisse and Picasso. Like them he was interested in African sculpture. This interest is echoed here in the figure’s broad hips, tapering legs, flattened round breasts and the simple suggestion of her ribs as well as the hatched patterning of the background.Grant would also have known the writings on African art by Roger Fry, a fellow member of the Bloomsbury Group. Fry argued that what was commonly seen as ‘primitive’ art possessed a raw, erotic passion that had been lost in traditional western painting.

Gallery label, July 2007

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Catalogue entry

Duncan Grant 1885-1978

T00723 The Tub circa 1913

Inscr. ‘D. Grant 1912’ b.l.
Wash and wax varnish on paper laid on canvas, 30 x 22 (76 x 56).
Chantrey Purchase from Wildenstein & Co. 1965.
Coll: Vanessa Bell; descended to her daughter Mrs. David Garnett.
Exh: British Council, Works selected for the 22nd ‘Biennale di Venezia’, Hertford House, May-June 1940 (127) as ‘The Bath’; Arts Council, Some 20th Century English Paintings and Drawings, Wales, 1950 (48); Tate Gallery, May-June 1959 (21, repr. pl. 4); Duncan Grant and his World, Wildenstein, November 1964 (18, repr. pi. 8); R.A., 1965 (14).
Lit: John Rothenstein, Modern English Painters: Lewis to Moore, 1956, p. 50, 2nd ed. 1962; Modern English Painters: Sickert to Grant, p. 321. Repr: R. Mortimer, Duncan Grant, 1944, pl. 5 (in colour); R.A. Illustrated, 1965, p. 8.

The picture was painted in Brunswick Square. The artist wrote that he could not remember whether it was exhibited before 1950 and whether Vanessa Bell bought it or exchanged it for one of hers (letter, 17 April 1965): ‘as it was painted about the same time as “The Ass” and “Adam and Eve” and some studies for the last picture, I suppose it belonged to the series of works in which I was painting with a restricted palette and trying to model in a simple way with black strokes.’ Denys Sutton, in his Introduction to the Wildenstein exhibition, 1964, refers to the influence of African sculpture as well as that of the Fauves on Grant’s work around 1912–13. The artist had met Picasso at Gertrude Stein’s studio about the same time. Raymond Mortimer (op. cit., p. 10) wrote: ‘Duncan Grant has a charming “handwriting” whether he is defining a contour in a nude study or scribbling a border for a book-jacket or a carpet.’

A later picture showing the back view of a woman seated in a tub is reproduced by Roger Fry, 1930, No. 10, as ‘The Tub’, 1916, but is referred to in the text as ‘Woman in the Tub’.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1964–1965, London 1966.

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