William Roberts

Study for ‘Two Step’


In Tate Britain

William Roberts 1895–1980
Graphite on paper
Support: 298 × 229 mm
Purchased 1968

Display caption

At least two dancing figures can be identified in this study. Their bodies are simplified into a pattern of hard-edged forms. They are hard to distinguish from the cluster of architectural forms that surround them. Roberts was one of several vorticists who liked to depict dancers. As a subject, dance could show the dialogue between movement, rhythm and rest. It also reflected the popular culture of urban life.

Gallery label, October 2020

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Catalogue entry

William Roberts b.1895
T01100 STUDY FOR ‘TWO STEP’ 1915
Not inscribed.
Pencil and black chalk, 11 3/4×9 (30×23), squared, and numbered in ink.
Purchased at Sotheby's (Mara Saric Bequest and Knapping Fund) 1968.
Coll: sold anonymously at Sotheby's, 11 December 1968 (290).

One of a group of thirteen drawings and a sketchbook all from the period 1914 to 1918 sold as thirteen lots in the same sale at Sotheby's. A version of the same size in watercolour, Lot 289 (repr.), in which brightly-coloured blocks of colour follow almost completely the angular divisions of T01100, was bought by Mr Anthony d'Offay. The artist told Sotheby's that these two were drawings for the oil painting, now lost, exhibited as no. 3B in the Vorticist Exhibition at the Doré Galleries in June 1915. Roberts used dancing subjects frequently in his work at this period, ‘At the Fox-Trot Ball’, ‘The Dancers’, ‘The Tambourine Dance’, ‘The Dance Club’ and ‘The Toe Dancer’ being among subjects in his work between 1913 and 1921.

On the reverse of T01100 are three separate drawings, two in ink, of unidentified subjects, of which the largest, in pencil, and the largest of the two in ink appear to be of the same subject, possibly a railway track or tracks, the ink version including figures and an umbrella.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery: Acquisitions 1968-9, London 1969

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