Anthony Gross

Place du Théâtre, Brive-la-Gaillarde


Not on display

Anthony Gross 1905–1984
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 813 × 1000 mm
Purchased 1981

Catalogue entry


Inscribed ‘Anthony Gross/1929’ bottom left, and ‘PLACE DU THEATRE BRIVE-la-GAILLARDE/1929 ANTHONY GROSS’on top stretcher member
Oil on canvas, 32 × 39 3/8 (81 × 100) Purchased from the artist (Gytha Trust) 1981

In addition to the sources cited, this and the following entry, which have been approved by the artist, draw on a conversation with him on 24 November 1982.

The reverse of the canvas bears the stamp of the Paris suppliers of artists' materials, Lefebvre-Foinet. In an unpublished memoir of the years 1905–30, Anthony Gross writes that in April 1927 ‘I came to Paris, went to Lefebvre-Foinet and asked them where I could go about 400 miles or so south of Paris to paint. They consulted and said I could do no worse than to start at Brive-la-Gaillarde [Corrèze]. So with that I loaded up with canvas, stretchers and paints. That evening I bought a one way ticket to Brive’. In Brive he asked in turn about a good local village in which to paint and as a result spent the rest of 1927 and 1928 painting in nearby Chasteaux. After a spell at Toulouse early in 1929 (etching at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts), he went to St Tropez, where ‘I had the opportunity of continuing my summer's work in the winter and that continuity made the break through for me’ (letter, 1 July 1982). ‘The larger town meant more people around. I painted very much under the influence of van Gogh, and started some excellent pictures and began really to obtain what I wanted’ (memoir). ‘I felt van Gogh had an extraordinarily vivid way of painting. His subjects were (at the time) brand new! His graphic way was an inspiration to me’ (letter). Gross painted again in Chasteaux from April 1929 until he went for a few weeks to the small village of Bach near Cahors ‘and really started painting good pictures. In September I went to Brive where I painted more good pictures, and eventually took all these pictures back to Paris’ (memoir). The Tate's picture was one of those painted in September 1929.

Brive-la-Gaillarde ‘is an important town - the “Gateway to the Midi”. Particularly known for early peaches (pink) and asparagus... There are a number of Brive paintings, the best is this one’ (letter). Several of the others are also of the Place du Théâtre. ‘I used to paint each picture at a single go. As I soon ran out of canvas, I scraped them down and repainted over them. Some had several “ébauches” on them before the final picture. This resulted in a build up of colour ... Yes there is a form of writing in the way I paint and draw’ (ibid.). ‘I do not paint tones, in fact I draw into the paint WITH COLOUR’ (additional note, 23 December 1982).

'I remember while painting this picture and others having been followed by a group of young people, and on this occasion a girl said to me “Et Monsieur qu'est ce que vous pensez de la Perspective?” to which I replied “Mademoiselle je m'en fous de la Perspective!”. Later I found they were students of the local artist, whom I met, who had sent them off to harry me!’ (ibid.). Gross's concern was with spatial rather than linear perspective. He continually exercises perspective, for example by placing a whole distant figure immediately beside a close-up ear, both being the same size in the picture. He tries in ways like this to find as many contrasts as possible, in order to maximise the plasticity of the whole.

'I was asked the question at the time “What was I trying to do”. I answered (it was Tristram Hillier) “to paint life as it existed but more so!”’ (ibid.).

Three of Gross's prints relate to this painting. Preceded by their numbers in the catalogue of his prints they are:

57. ‘Le Square’ 1929, burin, plate size 4 3/4 × 3 1/8in. Edition of 15. Although this shows a square in Paris, the girl standing behind a bicycle towards the print's lower edge is a reference to the central figure in the Tate's painting.

59. ‘Théâtre Brive’ 1930, burin. This was a Christmas card in an edition of about 30 examples, none of which have been traced. The image was quite close to that of the Tate's painting.

65. ‘Girl with Umbrella, Brive-la-Gaillarde’ 1930, etching, plate size 6 1/8 × 7 7/8in. Edition of 40. This etching after another painting shows a different square in Brive-la-Gaillarde, but is closely comparable to the Tate's painting in the disposition of figures and bicycles across the foreground, in front of a wide square with buildings beyond.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984

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