Stanley William Hayter

Le Chas de l’aiguille


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Stanley William Hayter 1901–1988
Engraving on paper
Image: 302 × 187 mm
Purchased 1972

Display caption

Hayter's interest in the combination of chance and spontaneous creativity is conveyed in the titles of these two works: Hunt the Needle and Myth of Creation. An element of controlled design is also evident, particularly in Hunt the Needle where a woman's anatomical features clearly emerge from the tangled lines. The prints demonstrate the technical refinement that made Hayter one of the century's most innovative printmakers. His Paris workshop, Atelier 17, was a focus for Surrealist experimentation, and American artists drew upon his expertise when he established a workshop in New York in the 1940s.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Stanley William Hayter 1910-1988

P07028 Le Chas de l’aiguille 1946

Inscribed ‘3/30’ b.l., ‘Le Chas de l’Aiguille’ centre, ‘S. W. Hayter 46’ b.r., and on mount ‘5’ b.l. ‘13¿ x 8¿’ b.c., and ‘Own Mount’ b.r.
Engraving on copper, 13¿ x 8¿ (33.3 x 21.3).
Purchased from Christopher Drake Ltd (Grant-in-Aid) 1973.
Coll: The artist’s collection; Christopher Drake Ltd.
Exh: Whitechapel Art Gallery, November 1957 (169); Christopher Drake Ltd, October-November 1973 (18, repr.).

The artist told Christopher Drake that this work is essentially an erotic image, its title being a pun upon the female anatomy. In a letter to the compiler (24 May 1974) the artist stated that it is ‘really an acrobatic female and the “eye of the needle” might refer to the needle of Gammer Gurton rather than of the Bible.’ (Gammer Gurton’s Needle is a bawdy, vigorous sixteenth-century comedy probably written by John Still, its plot being the search for Gammer’s needle and its discovery in the seat of Gurton’s breeches.)

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.

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