Rodrigo Moynihan

Figure in Studio


Not on display

Rodrigo Moynihan 1910–1990
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 410 × 330 mm
frame: 579 × 496 × 76 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1980

Display caption

Here the artist is, perhaps, shown as a cool observer, though he appears almost overwhelmed by the large canvas he seems to be working on. This looks like a self–portrait but a trick is played on us: the canvas we are looking at is not the round one the artist is painting in the picture.
Moynihan was one of a group of artists who pursued the possibility of an objective painting, avoiding the idea of art as an expression of the artist’s personality or emotions. At different times he explored both abstraction and an almost analytical figurative style to this end.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

T03158 FIGURE IN A STUDIO 1977–80

Not inscribed

Oil on canvas, 16 1/8 × 13 (41 × 33)
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1980

Prov: Purchased from the artist by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1980
Exh: RA, May–August 1980 (3)
Repr: RA Illustrated, 1980, p.47

'Figure in a Studio’ was painted over a period of three years, 1977–80, in the artist's studio in the South of France. It is a self-portrait, and the large, circular canvas on the easel is his paintingStill Life with Plastic Bottle and Cleaning Material’, 1975–8 (59 inches in diameter).

Moynihan has painted self-portraits over a long period, but this is the second in a particular series of small selfportraits in the studio. The first of these, ‘Self-Portrait with a Round Canvas’, 1977 (21 3/4 × 18 1/4in.), was shown at his retrospective exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1978 (137, private collection). The configuration is the same as in this work, except that the artist is shown in profile to the left with his head turned to the front, standing in the studio, staring into the mirror and not painting. He had then just recovered from a serious illness and had lost weight, but the portrait marked his return to work.

T03158 was begun shortly afterwards, with the same round canvas on the easel. It is more thickly painted, although not more detailed, and the height and position of the figure were altered several times. The still life subjects of the circular painting are arranged on shelves over a table to the artist's left, and appear at the right of the painting. In discussing the painting (4 November 1981) the artist stressed his concern with depicting light and space.

The series was still in progress at the time of the interview, and several small self-portraits were included in his one-man exhibition at Fischer Fine Art in April–May 1982. In a painting exhibited at the Robert Miller Gallery, New York, in 1980 the figure was again seen beside a round canvas on an easel, standing frontally to the mirror with his hands hanging down at either side. Several of the other portraits show his reflection and the mirror leaning against the wall. All these were painted in France, with the exception of a partly cut off self-portrait with a female nude, which was painted in the London studio.

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

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