Philip Wilson Steer

Seated Nude: The Black Hat


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Not on display

Philip Wilson Steer 1860–1942
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 508 × 406 mm
frame: 690 × 591 × 75 mm
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1941

Display caption

Wilson Steer, one of the most impressionist of British painters, posed his nudes in everyday settings, and here the model is playfully trying on a hat she has found in the studio. Steer did not exhibit this sketch, and it was chosen for the Tate Gallery directly from his studio in 1941, by the then Director Sir John Rothenstein. Steer told him ‘friends told me it was spoiled by the hat; they thought it indecent that a nude should be wearing a hat, so it’s never been shown’.

Gallery label, February 2016

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Catalogue entry


Inscr. ‘P. W. Steer’ b.r.
Canvas, 20×16 (51×40·5).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1941.
Coll: Acquired by Sir John Rothenstein from the artist for the C.A.S. 1941.
Lit: John Rothenstein, ‘Two Visits to Steer’ in Burlington Magazine, LXXXV, 1944, p.202; MacColl, 1945, pp.155, 199.
Repr: Studio, CXXII, 1941, p.66 (in colour); Anthony Bertram, A Century of British Painting 1851–1951, 1951, pl.150 (in colour).

A letter from Sir John Rothenstein to MacColl (21 December 1943; the text appears again almost verbatim in the Burlington Magazine, loc. cit.) describes the writer's first visit to Steer on 19 February 1941, when, as a newly appointed buyer for the Contemporary Art Society, he found N05261 in Steer's studio and asked to bring it away as a possible acquisition for the Tate Gallery. Steer remarked to Rothenstein that he had never publicly shown this work because ‘when it was painted, years ago, friends told me it was spoiled by the hat; they thought it indecent that a nude should be wearing a hat, so it's never been shown’. Another nude study ‘The Black Hat’, which in 1945 belonged to Mrs Fox, shows this model (a Miss Geary) wearing the same hat, but standing instead of being seated.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II

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