Victor Pasmore

Reclining Nude


Not on display

Victor Pasmore 1908–1998
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 305 × 406 mm
frame: 455 × 535 × 68 mm
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1951

Display caption

In 1937 Pasmore was instrumental in setting up the Euston Road School of Painting, with two other painters, Claude Rogers and William Coldstream. The purpose of the Euston Road School was to teach traditional disciplines and the adoption of an objective approach to the chosen subject. The School closed in 1939 with the onset of war, but Pasmore continued to paint in the manner of its teachings during the 1940s. He produced a series of small and tender portrait and nude studies of his wife, Wendy, whom he married in June 1940. This is one of them and it presents Wendy Pasmore in a quiet and intimate manner, with the parted curtains adding to the private nature of the scene.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Victor Pasmore 1908-1998

Reclining Nude 1942


Oil on canvas 305 x 407 (12 x 16)

Inscribed in pencil on stretcher in another hand ‘purchased Sir Muirhead Bone, February 194[?5]’
Fragment of label inscribed ‘Victor Pasmore | “Nude”’ and printed ‘TO BE RETURNED TO | PLATT HALL, RUSHOLME, MANCHESTER’
Back of canvas stamped, ‘No.3 | prepared by | C. ROBERSON & Co. 71 PARKWAY, London, NW1’

Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1951

Purchased from the artist by the Contemporary Art Society 1942

Redfern Gallery, London, Feb.-March 1943 (4)
British Painters 1939-1945, Arts Council tour 1946-7 (43)
Contemporary Art Society Anniversary Exhibition: The First Fifty Years 1910-60, Tate Gallery, London, April-May 1960 (54)
Victor Pasmore: Retrospective 1925-65, Tate Gallery, London, May-June 1965 (28)
British Painting 1900-1960, Sheffield City Art Gallery, Nov.-Dec. 1975 (128)
The Painted Nude: From Etty to Auerbach, Tate Gallery, London, Aug.-Dec. 1992, Norwich Castle Museum, May-Sept. 1993 (14, repr.)

Charles Johnson, ‘Penguin Modern Painters: Burra and Pasmore’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, vol.94, no.4711, 15 Feb. 1946, p.202
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, Tate Gallery: The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, II, London 1965, pp.508-9
Ronald Alley, ‘Victor Pasmore’, Studio International, vol.195, no.991/2, 1981, p.99
Alan Bowness and Luigi Lambertini, Victor Pasmore, with a Catalogue Raisonée of the Paintings, Constructions and Graphics 1926-1979, London 1980, p.290 no.54, repr.; Laughton 1986, p.224, repr. p.225

Also reproduced:
Clive Bell, Victor Pasmore, Harmondsworth 1945, pl.26 (as Nude)
Simon Wilson, British Art: From Holbein to the Present Day, London 1979, p.158

Like Nude (tate gallery T00152), Reclining Nude depicts the artist’s wife, Wendy, and uses a two-inch grid as a compositional aid. A few lines of this are visible through the paint in the region of the head and shoulder; the lowest horizontal apparently located the position of the base of the buttocks. However, it is not clear whether the whole canvas is squared up in this way or only the area of the figure. The white ground of the commercially prepared linen canvas has discoloured to a pale biscuit. On close inspection, the basic shapes and colours seem to have been painted and then scraped off, leaving a residue of paint in the hollows of the canvas. Further layers, varying in opacity and handling, were subsequently applied. The thin paint of the edge of the bed, through which the weave of the canvas is clearly visible, contrasts sharply with the thick paint of the bed clothes, just as the thin vertical strokes of the curtain contrast with the creamy treatment of the flesh.

The artist said that Reclining Nude was painted at his home at 2 Riverside, Upper Mall, beside the Thames in west London.[1] In October 1941, Pasmore had written to Claude Rogers that, whilst he was finishing the seated Nude, he and Wendy had found ‘a charming little Queen Anne House in Chiswick Reach overlooking the river. All being well Wendy will go there after the arrival of the offspring’.[2] Though Pasmore did not himself settle there until after his discharge from the army on 30 September 1942, he had clearly spent a little time there as, in a letter dated 25 May [1942], he wrote to Sir Kenneth Clark: ‘I do hope you will make an expedition to Riverside and see the one effort I did make’.[3] Though it is not clear to which painting that letter refers, the catalogue raisonné of Pasmore’s oeuvre lists only five works executed in 1942, of which Reclining Nude is one. Pasmore’s Girl with a Curtain (National Museum of Wales)[4] of the following year was also painted at 2 Riverside and may, therefore, depict the same curtained bed as Reclining Nude.

As in the earlier Nude, the artist rendered the main focus of the picture - in this case the model’s buttocks and feet - with a greater degree of detail than the rest of the composition. The turned away, curled pose of the figure and its spatial confinement give the painting the affectionate immediacy that is a feature of many of Pasmore’s paintings of his wife. The small scale of the work, its pale colouring and this sense of domestic intimacy are reminiscent of Dutch painting, a source for other pictures of Wendy. The most obvious precedent for a reclining nude turning away from the viewer is Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus. However, the naturalism of the curled pose in Pasmore’s painting is in marked contrast to the formal reclining pose of the Velazquez. A closer precedent was Claude Rogers’s Nude, 1938 (Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield),[5] in which a similar sense of intimacy was also created by the reclining model’s turned away pose.

Chris Stephens
Feb. 1998

[1] Interview with the author, 27 Feb. 1996
[2] Quoted Bruce Laughton, The Euston Road School: A Study in Objective Painting, Aldershot 1986, p.224
[3] Letter to Kenneth Clark, 25 May [1942], Tate Gallery Archive
[4] Repr. Alan Bowness and Luigi Lambertini, Victor Pasmore, with a Catalogue Raisonée of the Paintings, Constructions and Graphics 1926-1979, 1980, p.290, no.59
[5] Repr. in col. Jenny Pery, The Affectionate Eye: The Life of Claude Rogers, 1995, between pages 160 and 161, pl.V

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