Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson

Dance Hall Scene


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Not on display

Gouache and graphite on paper
Support: 222 × 197 mm
Purchased 1974

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This scene of wild partying was probably inspired by the Albert Hall Ball, held in London on 3 December 1913. Nevinson was fascinated by the idea of ‘simultaneity’. His composition here not is just depicting dancers, but conveys the experience of dancing. He was the only British artist to wholeheartedly embrace futurism, co-signing the manifesto Vital English Art which rejected ‘the pretty-pretty, the commonplace, the soft, sweet, and mediocre’ in English culture, in favour of the modern and dynamic.

Gallery label, February 2016

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Catalogue entry

T01913 DANCE HALL SCENE c.1913–14

Inscribed ‘C. R. W. Nevinson’ b.r.
Gouache and coloured pencil on paper, squared and laid on card, 8 13/16×7 11/16 (22.4×19.6)
Purchased at Christie's (Grant-in-Aid) 1974
Coll: R.J. Hayes; sold at Christie's, 12 July 1974 (345, repr.) as ‘At the Dance Hall’; bt. Anthony d'Offay for the Tate Gallery
Lit: Richard Cork, Vorticism and Abstract Art in the First Machine Age, 1975, pp.218–19, repr.

In 1913 and 1914 Nevinson painted a number of compositions influenced by Futurist paintings, particularly those of Severini. With the exception of T01913 and ‘The Arrival’ (Tate Gallery T.110,) the whereabouts of none of these paintings is known, though two were reproduced in newspapers at the time they were exhibited. ‘Waiting for the Robert E. Lee’ c.1913, a dance-hall scene, size unknown, was exhibited in the Post-Impressionist and Futurist Exhibition organised by Frank Rutter at the Doré Galleries, London, in October 1913 and illustrated in the Daily Sketch of 18 October 1913. A large (about 6×8 ft.) oil painting into which confetti was scattered, ‘Tum-Tiddly-Um-Tum-Pom-Pom’ 1914, said by Nevinson to represent a Bank Holiday crowd, was exhibited at the Allied Artists' Association Salon in 1914 and reproduced in the Western Mail of 15 May 1914.

The composition and subject of ‘Waiting for the Robert E. Lee’ and T01913 are similar, though the degree of Futurist stylization is greater in T01913 and is close to that of Severini's ‘Pan-Pan-Dance at the Monico’. To the compiler T01913 would seem to have been executed between ‘Waiting for the Robert E. Lee’ and ‘Tum-Tiddly-Um-Tum-Pom-Pom’, the latter work having a greater element of abstraction than T01913.

Richard Cork has given assistance in the preparation of this catalogue entry and in a letter to the compiler (2 September 1975) has suggested that a possible theme of T01913 is ‘the Albert Hall Ball held on 3 December 1913 for which Nevinson designed a “Tableau” in collaboration with Wyndham Lewis. The tableau's appearance is unrecorded, but Lewis is known to have dressed one of the guests at the Ball “as a Futurist picture”. And the fancy dress shown in the Tate picture might have been worn at such an event. Nevinson could, however, equally well have been referring to the uninhibited dancing at the Moulin Rouge, which he describes with affection in his autobiography’.

When shown a photograph Mrs Catherine Nevinson, the artist's widow, confirmed that this work was by Nevinson, that the signature was his and that the work dated ‘from the time of the First War, not later’, and that it depicted ‘a night club scene’. Mrs Nevinson later added that Nevinson did several small works of this type, depicting similar scenes, and that no large picture was made using ‘Dance Hall Scene’ as a sketch. She also suggested that the woman in the left foreground may have been Mrs Ethelbert White, who was a dancer, and wore brightly-coloured hats. (The figure in the foreground is depicted wearing a brightly-coloured hat, though Mrs Nevinson was shown a black and white photograph).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978

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