William Roberts

The Return of Ulysses


In Tate Britain

William Roberts 1895–1980
Chalk and watercolour on paper
Support: 305 × 457 mm
frame: 472 × 623 × 28 mm
Purchased 1966

Display caption

This is one of two known studies, both in the Tate Gallery, made by Roberts for his painting 'The Return of Ulysses', 1913. The painting is now in Nottingham Castle Museum. The figures in this work are more stylised than in the painting and the artist's use of colour is more emphatic. However, the artist's development of an underlying geometric composition is similar. Both the study and the painting have an exaggerated angularity, jagged shadows, and thrusting diagonal lines spearheaded by the table tops. This approach to picture-making characterised what was later to be called Vorticism. Roberts joined Wyndham Lewis at the Rebel Art Centre in 1914 and signed the Vorticist Manifesto, published in 'BLAST' No.1.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

William Roberts 1895-1980

T00878 The Return of Ulysses 1913

Inscr. ‘William/Roberts.’ b.c.
Chalk and watercolour, 12 x 18 (30.5 x 45.5).
Purchased from Lords Gallery (Knapping Fund) 1966.
Coll. Bought by the first owner from the artist in 1913 or early in 1914; sold by him at Sotheby’s, 14 July 1965 (96); bt. Lords Gallery.
Exh. Tate Gallery, November–December 1965 (117).

A study for the painting of the same title and size in Nottingham Castle Museum (Roberts’ earliest surviving oil painting, which was exhibited at the New English Art Club in the winter of 1913). The study, probably executed shortly after Roberts left the Slade in the summer of 1913, represents a marked change in his style as compared with the Camden Town-like drawings such as ‘Leadenhall Market’ (T00581) made in the first half of the year. In the study the figures are more stylised than in the final painting, the individual features less defined and the colours different and much more emphatic; but in other respects the painting follows the study closely. The steeply inclined perspective, pronounced angularity, jagged shadows, and juxtaposition of animated figures with the strong lines of the table tops, are all characteristic of the work at this date of what was to be the Vorticist circle. The signature was added in 1965.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1966–1967, London 1967.

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