Ithell Colquhoun, ‘Scylla’ 1938
Ithell Colquhoun, Scylla 1938 . Tate . © Spire Healthcare, © Noise Abatement Society, © Samaritans

Room 8 in Walk Through British Art

1930

12 rooms in Walk Through British Art

Scylla

Ithell Colquhoun, Scylla  1938

The title of this work refers to the female monster who, according to ancient Greek mythology, inhabited a narrow channel of water and fed on passing sailors. Colquhoun explained that the image could be understood in two ways, both as a seascape and as an image of her own body. ‘It was suggested by what I could see of myself in a bath…it is thus a pictorial pun, or double-image’. The rock formations can also be seen as knees, with seaweed in place of pubic hair. This work was painted at a time when Colquhoun was exploring surrealist ideas such as the double image.

Gallery label, January 2019

© Spire Healthcare, © Noise Abatement Society, © Samaritans

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artworks in 1930

Portrait of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll

Gerald Leslie Brockhurst, Portrait of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll  c.1931

In the 1930s Brockhurst became a sought after portrait painter. Paintings such as this represented a fashionable assimilation of past with present, a modern expression of traditional artistic values. Combining rich decoration with subtle assessment of character, Brockhurst specialised in painting rich, famous and often highly independent women. This is a portrait of the socialite Margaret Sweeney, Duchess of Argyll. The dramatic landscape background of volcanic mountains and loch allude to the sitter’s Scottish heritage of which she was intensely proud.

Gallery label, August 2019

© Richard Woodward

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Equivalents for the Megaliths

Paul Nash, Equivalents for the Megaliths  1935

‘Megaliths’ are great standing stones, the remains of ancient temples in places such as Stonehenge; this work was inspired by the stones at Avebury, on the Wiltshire Downs. Here Nash brings together Britain’s most advanced cultural objects with its most ancient: the geometric forms are similar to those found in contemporary abstract sculpture, but are also ‘equivalents’ for prehistoric standing stones. Nash had an enduring fascination with the mystical qualities of inanimate objects. The abstract forms draw on the emotional presence of ancient monuments, integrated with the landscape, but also provide a powerful element of abstract design.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Johanaan

Ronald Moody, Johanaan  1936

Moody was born in Jamaica and moved to England in 1923. While studying dentistry in London he visited the British Museum and was inspired to become a sculptor. Moody was particularly interested in the museum’s collection of ancient Egyptian art. This figure’s pose appears to reflect this. Moody took a year to carve it from a rectangular block of elm. This sculpture was previously titled Alles, which in German can mean ‘all people’. It has been suggested that the artist intended to produce an image that represented all of humanity.

Gallery label, April 2019

© The estate of Ronald Moody

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1935 (white relief)

Ben Nicholson OM, 1935 (white relief)  1935

Ben Nicholson was, with his second wife Barbara Hepworth, a leading figure in the international modern movement in Britain. With artists in continental Europe and North America such as Mondrian, Moholy-Nagy and Calder they worked together to achieve and promote an art that was abstract, synthesised with architecture and design. In defiance of the increasingly antagonistic nationalism engulfing Europe, position was explicitly internationalist and utopian. The compositional quietude of Nicholson’s white reliefs provided an aesthetic model for a possible social harmony.

Gallery label, September 2016

© Angela Verren Taunt 2020. All rights reserved, DACS

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artworks in 1930

Autumn Composition, Flowers on a Table

Ivon Hitchens, Autumn Composition, Flowers on a Table  1932

In this painting Hitchens used a palette knife, rags to wipe away paint and vigorous brush strokes to create an active surface. Painted in his Hampstead studio this work ‘dates from the kind of surroundings and the period of [Hitchens’s] urban life - from about 1920-40 before the full impact of nature and country living.’ The shallow space and overlapping forms suggest the influence of the post-cubist still lifes of Braque. So does the use of accents of colour that punctuate an otherwise sombre painting. The strength of the colour, however, is more suggestive of Matisse.

Gallery label, September 2016

© The estate of Ivon Hitchens

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Sun God (verso: Primeval Gods)

Sir Jacob Epstein, Sun God (verso: Primeval Gods)  1910, 1931–1933

The two sides of this sculpture were carved at different times. Sun God was carved in 1910 when Epstein and Eric Gill were planning what Gill described as a ‘sort of twentieth-century Stonehenge’ of monumental sculpture at Asheham House, Sussex. Probably intended for this unrealised project, it is one of several works influenced by Egyptian art, exploring the power of the sun. In 1931 Epstein carved Primeval Gods on the reverse. Although the massive square shouldered figure is inspired by African sculpture, Epstein’s work in the 1930s also shows his engagement with younger British sculptors, including Moore and Hepworth.

Gallery label, September 2016

© The estate of Sir Jacob Epstein

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artworks in 1930

The Potteries

Julian Trevelyan, The Potteries  c.1938

Julian Trevelyan worked with Mass Observation, which applied anthropological survey methods to British society. It was founded in 1937, the year after the Jarrow March, a mass protest against unemployment. While the primary tool in gathering information was hundreds of amateur diarists, photography and painting were also used. After a visit to Bolton, Trevelyan returned home via Stoke on-Trent, describing its industrial area as ‘a landscape full of drama and pathos’, explaining how ‘human beings seemed to creep about almost apologetically among the manmade disasters’.

Gallery label, September 2016

© The estate of Julian Trevelyan

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artworks in 1930

Ball, Plane and Hole

Dame Barbara Hepworth, Ball, Plane and Hole  1936

This simple structure is unusual for Hepworth. Two of the elements were made using a saw, and the parts are held together with screws. The natural warmth of the wood enhances the simplicity of the sculptural form. The title draws attention to the relationship between the solid material and the empty space around it. The sculpture has the playful qualities of a child’s toy. The placement of the wedge, ball and hole suggests movement. It looks as though the ball could run down the wedge and pass through the hole.

Gallery label, January 2020

© Bowness

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1932 (Auberge de la Sole Dieppoise)

Ben Nicholson OM, 1932 (Auberge de la Sole Dieppoise)  1932

This painting depicts the likeness of Barbara Hepworth reflected in the window of a modest hotel-restaurant. In the summer of 1932 Nicholson and Hepworth visited cubist painter Georges Braque in Dieppe. The use of words to emphasise the flatness of the picture surface was a device employed by Braque between 1910 and 1920, but the sparseness of the composition and lack of tangible objects was particular to Nicholson. He wrote that the paintings’ roughness was a forerunner of his first abstract relief, made at the end of 1933.

Gallery label, September 2016

© Angela Verren Taunt 2020. All rights reserved, DACS

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10/21
artworks in 1930

Church at Tréboul

Christopher Wood, Church at Tréboul  1930

Wood spent June and July 1930 painting in Brittany, basing himself in Tréboul, close to Douarnenez. This area was popular with both British and French painters and was close to Pont-Aven, which had been made famous by Gauguin whose work, together with that of Van Gogh, was important to Wood. In the space of 40 days Wood painted some 60 canvases both from life and, at night, from postcards, mostly depicting scenes from the daily lives of the fishing community. Moving from the depiction of boats to architecture he claimed helped him to paint a ‘quieter composition’.

Gallery label, September 2016

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The Conquest of Time

Merlyn Oliver Evans, The Conquest of Time  1934

Evans’s complex interlocking forms were inspired by his study of the natural world. The artist described how he wanted to explore the timelessness of art by thinking of a kingfisher, which waits motionless beside a flowing river, occasionally plucking a fish from it. His abstract bird form is painted in subdued colours and set against a plain background to suggest stillness and isolation. His work became associated with the surrealist art movement when The Conquest of Time was exhibited in the International Surrealist Exhibition held in London in 1936.

Gallery label, March 2019

© The estate of Merlyn Oliver Evans

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artworks in 1930

Lilian

David Bomberg, Lilian  1932

David Bomberg produced many portraits of his partner, artist Lilian Holt, during the 1930s. These are notable for their use of vigorous brushstrokes. Holt recalled that, for this half-length portrait, she sat with a black satin dressing-gown around her shoulders and arms because she was shy of posing completely nude. Bomberg required her to pose quite still and in silence, in order that nothing should interrupt his concentration.

Gallery label, November 2016

© Tate

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artworks in 1930

Sandpipers, Alnmouth

Winifred Nicholson, Sandpipers, Alnmouth  1933

Throughout her life, most of Nicholson’s work depicted either flowers or landscape. This painting was made during a holiday on the Northumberland coast. It is typical in its reduction of the scene to a few simple areas of colour. Despite this abstraction it is still very evocative, not least because of her application of real sand to the paint denoting the beach. Nicholson’s paintings have an air of freshness and of the back-to-basics attitude upon which she based her lifestyle.

Gallery label, September 2016

© The Trustees of the estate of Winifred Nicholson

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Meredith Frampton, Trial and Error  1939

Many of the objects in this still life refer to the ‘art of painting’. For example, the head of a model used for life drawing placed on the open sketchbook. Other items could suggest the temporary nature of life. These include the urn and the white carnation flowers, often seen at funerals. The unusual mix of objects, painted in Frampton’s precise style, give the work a surreal, dream-like quality.

Gallery label, November 2019

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artworks in 1930

Surgical Ward

Sam Haile, Surgical Ward  1939

In true surrealist tradition, Haile’s work challenges convention and good taste. There seems to be a clear air of violence and threat in this picture. We seem to be looking at both a figure in a landscape and at the internal organs of a human body. The artist was fascinated with surgery and dismemberment. This work may show a surgeon (right) trampling on parts of a dissected body, watched by a series of disembodied eyes (left). The idea of stripping away all learnt convention to facilitate a new vision was an important part of surrealism.

Gallery label, September 2016

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artworks in 1930

Akua-Ba

John Skeaping, Akua-Ba  1931

This work borrows from Ghanaian legend. An infertile woman, Akua, was instructed by a priest to care for a wooden doll as if it were a real child (ba) to help her become pregnant. Akua’ba figures have been used historically as fertility aids or symbols. Much like the legend itself, the arcadia wood used in this work is native to Africa. However, this piece supposedly came from a tree that had been felled on Acacia Road, near Skeaping’s studio in north London.

Gallery label, November 2018

© The estate of John Skeaping

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Miss Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies as Isabella of France

Walter Richard Sickert, Miss Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies as Isabella of France  1932

Sickert loved the theatre and became a friend of the actress Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies after writing her a fan letter in 1932. This painting shows her in the role of Queen Isabella of France in Christopher Marlowe’s 16th-century play Edward II. The name ‘La Louve’ means ‘she-wolf’, a hostile title given to the historical Isabella. The production had taken place nine years earlier, and Sickert painted this picture from a small photograph, taken by Bertram Park, of the actress on stage. The painting was an immediate success and the Daily Mail described it as ‘Mr Sickert’s Best Work’.

Gallery label, September 2016

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Head of a Woman

Maurice Lambert, Head of a Woman  exhibited 1938

This bronze portrait of the English lutenist, Diana Poulton (1903-1995), was completed in 1936. Lambert’s delicate modelling of Poulton’s features combined with the lucid transitions between lines and curved mass emphasise the sensuality of his sitter’s character. He cast this piece before considering it finished which brought about a sense of experiment and vitality. These attributes are associated with modern sculpture and move this work away from realism towards a looser expression of form in portrait sculpture. Lambert cast only one bronze of this piece and retained the plaster original for himself.

Gallery label, September 2016

© The estate of Maurice Lambert

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19/21
artworks in 1930

Javanese Head

Dora Gordine, Javanese Head  1931

Described by the Evening Standard as ‘a girl sculpture genius’, Gordine travelled to Singapore to work on a commission for the city authorities to produce six sculpted heads representing people of different ethnic backgrounds living in the Malay Peninsula. Javanese Head was modelled there, and its form sits between artistic styles in British art of the period, as the critic Arthur Symons defined, a ‘profound sense of pure form… heedless alike of realism and of exaggerated abstraction’.

Gallery label, September 2016

© Estate of Dora Gordine, courtesy Dorich House Museum, Kingston University

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artworks in 1930

Fulcrum

John Tunnard, Fulcrum  1939

An advocate of surrealism in Britain, Tunnard was interested in experimental techniques that summon an imaginative world. He developed a unique vision of quasi-mechanical structures in deep space that remain mysterious. Tunnard was taken up by the American collector Peggy Guggenheim and shown in her London gallery in 1939. The story goes that he crossed the private view to introduce himself to a prospective collector by turning three somersaults.

Gallery label, September 2016

© The Estate of John Tunnard

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artworks in 1930

Art in this room

Scylla
Ithell Colquhoun Scylla 1938
Portrait of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll
Gerald Leslie Brockhurst Portrait of Margaret, Duchess of Argyll c.1931
Equivalents for the Megaliths
Paul Nash Equivalents for the Megaliths 1935
Johanaan
Ronald Moody Johanaan 1936
1935 (white relief)
Ben Nicholson OM 1935 (white relief) 1935
Autumn Composition, Flowers on a Table
Ivon Hitchens Autumn Composition, Flowers on a Table 1932

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