Rodrigo Moynihan

The Shelf: Objects and Shadows - Front View


Not on display

Rodrigo Moynihan 1910–1990
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 711 × 915 mm
frame: 851 × 1053 × 54 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1984

Display caption

Moynihan's recent still lifes extend not only his personal mastery of the genre but also a long tradition of artists' meditation on their own craft. Moynihan is consistently sensitive to the exact revelation of colour and of form by the fall of light. Here the very feel of contrasting substances is conveyed, as well as varying degrees of opacity and transparency and the translucency of modern plastics. Moynihan has remarked: 'These things I paint are kind of bone-coloured, and what fascinates me very much is the colour of dust and curious difficult transitions between very dull or dull-seeming colours ... their sort of dullness is full of light'.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Rodrigo Moynihan born 1910

T03931 The Shelf: Objects and Shadows - Front View 1982-3

Oil on canvas 711 x 915 (28 x 36)
Inscribed ‘Moynihan '83' b.r.
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1985
Prov: Purchased by the Tate Gallery from Robert Miller Gallery 1985
Exh: Rodrigo Moynihan, Robert Miller Gallery, New York, Oct.-Nov. 1983, (no number, repr. p.35 in col.); The Hard-Won Image: Traditional Method and Subject in Recent English Art, Tate Gallery, July-Sept. 1984 (113, repr.); Representation Abroad, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, June-Sept. 1985 (128, repr.)
Lit: Robert Rosenblum, in Rodrigo Moynihan, exh. cat., Robert Miller Gallery, New York 1980, p.1; Richard Shone, ‘Rodrigo Moynihan', Burlington Magazine, vol.124, June 1982, p.376; Richard Shone in Rodrigo Moynihan, exh. cat., Robert Miller Gallery, New York 1983, pp.1-11; David Sylvester and Rodrigo Moynihan, "Natures mortes" or "objets trouvés?" in Rodrigo Moynihan Peintures, exh. cat., Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris, 1984 pp.1-11; Maureen Mullarkey, ‘A Medicine Show & Some Others', Hudson Review, vol.40, Sept.1987, pp.108-9; Friends of the Tate Gallery Report 1984-5, 1985, p.12 (repr.)

This still life by Moynihan is one of ten exhibited at the Robert Miller Gallery, New York, in October 1983. All these were of shelves or tables in one of his two studios, with the objects on them as he found them, not arranged. Some of the same objects were used in different paintings and are similar to those in his still lifes from about 1970. Moynihan discussed these subjects and his aims in an interview with David Sylvester, titled ‘"Natures mortes" or "objets trouvés?"' of September 1983 (Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris 1984).

This subject was in the artist's studio at South Kensington and, unusually, was painted twice. He first chose an oblique view along the shelf from the left, finally titled ‘The Shelf: Objects and Shadows - Side View' 1982-3 (now in a private collection in America, repr. Robert Miller Gallery exh. cat. 1983, p.29). The Tate Gallery's painting was begun later and shows the same objects, not moved, with the addition of a small roll of canvas at the centre. All the objects are artists' materials: a roll of cotton wool, masking tape, a plastic container of turps, a bottle of oil and another empty bottle, and a funnel. In both cases the shelf was viewed from a distance of about ten feet. The earlier one was worked on over a longer period than the Tate Gallery's, which was begun in the winter of 1982-3 and continued until the following summer.

Moynihan photographed both views in black and white during the painting, but did not work from the print. There were no studies and the picture was painted directly on the canvas. As with the other still lifes the range of colour is deliberately restricted.

This entry is based on a conversation with the artist on 8 January 1988.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.213-14

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