Adrian Stokes

Still Life: Last Eleven (No. 6)


Not on display

Adrian Stokes 1902–1972
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 356 × 457 mm
Purchased 1983

Catalogue entry


Oil on canvas, 356 x 457 mm (14 x 18 in)
Inscribed by the artist on top canvas surplus in paint ‘ADS ’72’ and by Ann Stokes Angus ‘3/11/72’

Purchased from Mrs Ann Stokes Angus, the artist’s widow (Grant-in-Aid) 1983

The Last Paintings of Adrian Stokes, Tate Gallery, London, Feb.-March 1973 (no catalogue)
Adrian Stokes, Arts Council tour, Serpentine Gallery, London, June-July 1982, Huddersfield Art Gallery, July-Aug., City Museum and Art Gallery, Gloucester, Sept.-Oct. 1982 (125, repr. as Still Life: Last Eleven)
The Hard Won Image: Traditional Method and Subject in Recent British Art, Tate Gallery, London, July-Sept. 1984 (127)

Richard Wollheim, ‘Adrian Stokes’, Listener, 28 Dec. 1972, p.900
John Russell, ‘Review’, Sunday Times, 25 Feb. 1973
Nigel Gosling, ‘Review’, Observer, 25 Feb. 1973
Lawrence Gowing, ‘True to Form’, New Statesman, 2 March 1973, p.316
Michael McNay, ‘Adrian Stokes’, Guardian, 3 March 1973
Marina Vaizey, ‘Adrian Stokes, John Hubbard’, Financial Times, 5 March 1973
Christopher Fox, ‘Review’, Studio International, vol.185, no.954, April 1973, p.153
Keith Roberts, ‘Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions’, Burlington Magazine, vol.115, no.841, April 1973, p.263
Richard Wollheim, ‘Adrian Stokes, Critic, Painter, Poet’, 4th William Townsend lecture, Slade School of Art, 1978, extended version published Times Literary Supplement, 17 Feb. 1978, p.207, reprinted in Stephen Bann (ed.), ‘Adrian Stokes 1902-72’, supplement, PN Review, 15, vol.7 no.1, 1980, p.37
Richard Wollheim, ‘On Adrian Stokes’s Paintings 1972’, Adrian Stokes, exh. cat., Serpentine Gallery, London 1982, p.18
Richard Wollheim, ‘An Artist Who Practiced What he Preached’, Times Higher Educational Supplement, 18 June 1982, pp.12-13
Robert Melville, ‘The Last Eleven’, London Review of Books, 15 July-4 Aug. 1982, p.18
Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1982-4, London 1986, pp.330-6, repr.
Ann Buchanan Crosby, ‘Souvenir de Adrian Stokes’, Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, no.25, autumn 1988, pp.9-12

Adrian Stokes painted eleven still lifes between early September 1972, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, and his death on 15 December. Of the series of eleven works, nine belong to the Tate and this has been designated the sixth of the series. A fuller account of the series, details of its circumstances and problems in dating may be found in the catalogue entry of Still Life: Last Eleven (No.3) (Tate T03587).

For an earlier Tate Gallery catalogue the artist’s widow, Ann Stokes Angus, proposed an order for series.[1] Though only one, No.10 (Tate T03585), was dated by the artist, No.6 and No.11 (Tate T03581) had been dated by her: the former ‘3/11/72’, presumably soon after its completion, the latter ‘15/11 1972’. However, she and Richard Wollheim recalled that No.11 was completed on 13 December, thirty-six hours before Stokes died, and she said that her inscription on its back ‘was a straight forward mistake for 15/12/72 [though] this probably should be the 14/12/72’. She explained the confusion by the fact she often made the ‘mistake [of] calling Dec. the 11th month’.[2] In the light of this, the inscription on No.6 may be wrong and we might date it to 3 December, making it the ninth of the series. That positioning would certainly be stylistically consistent and it might be logical that the final three works should be the only ones with specific dates. The later dating of No.6 is further supported by the presence of splashes of what Tate conservators believed to be pink plaster but may be potter’s clay.[3] Ann Stokes Angus told the Tate that, though most of this series was painted in Stokes’s attic studio, the last three (possibly four) were executed in her pottery downstairs. She estimated that it was in late November that his decreasing physical powers had forced him to work in closer proximity to her.[4]

In common with all but one of the nine works owned by the Tate, this painting, No.6, was painted on a prepared, Winsor & Newton, canvas. As in the others, the density of the oil paint varies from very thin washes to isolated areas of impasto, a few of which are unusually thick for Stokes, and there are areas of bare ground. A high thinner content gave the paint a largely matt finish and made runs and dribbles a feature of the technique. The colouring of the paintings is continuous with Stokes’s earlier work, though the lighter palette of a number of them is distinctive. The colouring of No.6 is similar to that of No.4 (Tate T03579), with its pink and white objects set on a brown-grey foreground against a blue-grey backdrop.

Chris Stephens
July 1998

[1] Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1982-4, London 1986, pp.330-6.
[2] Ann Stokes Angus, letter to Tate, 2 April 1986, Tate catalogue files.
[3] Tate conservation files.
[4] Letter, 2 April 1986.

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