Edward Wadsworth

Dux et Comes I


Not on display

Edward Wadsworth 1889–1949
Tempera on canvas
Support: 508 × 610 mm
frame: 660 × 760 × 80 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1969

Display caption

Wadsworth began introducing more abstract forms into his nautical still lifes towards the end of the 1920s. In the following decade he made severa; abstract paintings, and in 1932 became a member of the Paris-based artist group Abstraction-Création. This painting belongs to a series called Dux et Comes, a musical term used to describe choral roles in a fugue. It translates from the Latin as ‘leader and companion’. The leader (soprano) sings in one key, the companion (alto) replies in another. Wadsworth’s works from this series explore human relationships and moods as indicated by subtitles, in this case ‘Rebuff’.

Gallery label, September 2016

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Catalogue entry

Edward Wadsworth 1889–1949
T01124 DUX ET COMES I 1932
Inscribed ‘E WADSWORTH 1932’ b.r.
Tempera on canvas, 20×24 (51×61).
Chantrey Purchase 1969.
Coll: Purchased by the Chantrey Bequest from the artist's daughter, Mrs von Bethmann-Hollweg, through Marlborough Fine Art Ltd 1969.
Exh: Mayor Gallery, October–November 1933 (? 1); ? British Council, Selection for the 22nd Venice Biennale, Hertford House, May–June 1940 (93, as ‘Dux et Comes, 1933’, lent by Mrs John Barrow); Art in Britain 1930–40, Marlborough Fine Art, March–April 1965 (170).
Repr: Edward Wadsworth, éditions Sélection, XIII, p. 75 as ‘Composition’.

Wadsworth executed a series of paintings on the theme ‘Dux et Comes’ in 1932–3. Nine of these were shown in his one-man exhibition at the Mayor Gallery in 1933. They all had subtitles with the introductory word ‘variant’, viz (1) Rebuff, 1932; (3) Meeting, 1933; (4) Minacciando I, 1933; (6) Pursuit, 1933; (7) Exhalation, 1933; (13) Ponderous, 1933; (17) Minacciando II, 1933; (21) Exhalation II, 1933; (22) Conversational, 1932. One of the pictures entitled ‘Dux et Comes: Exhalation’ is reproduced in Unit One, 1934, p. 103; ‘Dux et Comes: Pursuit’ is reproduced in Studio, CVI, 1933, p. 276; and ‘Dux et Comes: Ponderous’ in Apollo, XVIII, 1933, p. 386. The Victoria and Albert Museum bought in 1960 a variant known as ‘Dux et Comes IV’ (reproduced in Edward Wadsworth, éditions Sélection, XIII, p. 74 as ‘Composition, 1932’). Another variant was exhibited in Art in Britain 1930–40, Marlborough Fine Art, March–April 1965 (168, repr.) as ‘Dux et Comes VII, 1932’.

The present work has a British Council label on the back with the title ‘Dux et Comes I’ and it would appear therefore to have been the earliest work of the series. It is probably the picture originally exhibited with the subtitle ‘Rebuff’, especially as the two forms, which are like abstracted heads, are shown in an aggressive confrontation.

It is clear from the titles that the series was an attempt to render moods and human relationships in an abstract language. This is in accord with the artist's views at this time as expressed in statements published in Studio, CVI, 1933, pp. 274–6 and Unit One, 1934, pp. 97–99.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1968-70, London 1970

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