Max Ernst, ‘Men Shall Know Nothing of This’ 1923
Max Ernst, Men Shall Know Nothing of This 1923 . Tate . © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2020

Room 1 in Constellations

Max Ernst Men Shall Know Nothing of This, 1923

Women and Bird in the Moonlight

Joan Miró, Women and Bird in the Moonlight  1949

This work belongs to a series of paintings that Miró made in 1949–50 in Majorca.
Miró’s use of simple shapes and bright colours constitutes a highly personal visual language, often charged with symbolic meaning. In this case, the women and bird of the title are easily identifiable under the moon and stars. This imagery suggests a harmonious and elemental relationship between man and nature, which the artist felt was threatened by modern civilisation.

Gallery label, August 2013

© Succession Miro/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2020

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Men Shall Know Nothing of This

Max Ernst, Men Shall Know Nothing of This  1923

Ernst studied philosophy and psychology in Bonn and was interested in the alternative realities experienced by the insane. This painting may have been inspired by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s study of the delusions of a paranoiac, Daniel Paul Schreber. Freud identified Schreber’s fantasy of becoming a woman as a ‘castration complex’. The central image of two pairs of legs refers to Schreber’s hermaphroditic desires. Ernst’s inscription on the back of the painting reads: ‘The picture is curious because of its symmetry. The two sexes balance one another.’

Gallery label, July 2008

© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2020

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The Doll

Hans Bellmer, The Doll  1936, reconstructed 1965

In the early 1930s, Bellmer created an almost life-sized figure of a young girl, which André Breton and Paul Eluard described as ‘the first and only Surrealist object with a universal, provocative power’. He recreated the doll in a variety of forms. This version makes the element of sexual fantasy explicit by reducing her to two sets of hips. It also derives from Bellmer’s desire to maximise the articulation of this substitute body/object through the use of ball joints. Indeed, this work was originally known as Ball Joint, and was exhibited in the 1936 Surrealist exhibition of objects held in Paris.

Gallery label, August 2004

© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2020

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Louise Bourgeois, Mamelles  1991, cast 2001

Mamelles is a large-scale wall relief in which a series of female breasts have been moulded within a horizontal structure reminiscent of a classical frieze. The breasts can be seen as a symbol of woman’s nurturing role, while also exposing the female body as a sexualised object, stripped bare and vulnerable. Bourgeois has linked this work to the mythical seducer Don Juan, and said that it ‘portrays a man who lives off the woman he courts, making his way from one to the next. Feeding from them but returning nothing, he loves only in a consumptive and selfish manner.’

Gallery label, July 2008

© The Easton Foundation

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Draped Nude

Henri Matisse, Draped Nude  1936

This is one of a series of four pictures, all the same size, painted in the spring of 1936. In the first the woman's hands meet in the centre of the picture and the entire lower leg is depicted. This painting, the second in the series, shows Matisse concerned to relate the figure to the edges of the picture: her body fills the space, and the position of her arms, in particular, appears to emphasise the shape of the canvas. The floral patterning of the woman's gown and the exotic plant behind her serve as quiet reminders of the theme of the harem girl, or odalisque, which was central to Matisse's work.

Gallery label, September 2004

© Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2020

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The Tree of Fluids

Jean Dubuffet, The Tree of Fluids  1950

This is one of a series of paintings by Dubuffet in which women’s bodies are flattened and exposed, subverting accepted ideals of female beauty. The distinctive surface of these works was created by applying a special paste that repelled oil paint. As the layers of paint and glaze dried, they continually reassembled themselves into new patterns and textures. Dubuffet wrote that these patterns ‘have transported me into an invisible world of fluids circulating in the bodies and around them, and have revealed to me a whole active theatre of facts, which perform, I am certain, at some level of life.’

Gallery label, July 2012

© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2020

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Portrait of a Doctor

Francis Picabia, Portrait of a Doctor  c.1935–8

This was originally a relatively naturalistic portrait of a man pointing to a skull, the traditional reminder of death. After it was returned unsold, Picabia chose to obliterate the features of the face, transforming it into a void overlaid with strange symbols that may have been derived from medieval Catalan frescos. Picabia surrounded his figure with sexually-suggestive hanging objects based on these symbols, while the horns are a reference to cuckoldry. The misleading date ‘1925’ was also painted in later, reflecting Picabia’s subversive sense of humour.

Gallery label, July 2008

© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2020

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Water

Germaine Richier, Water  1953–4

Richier’s sculptures often incorporated found objects that she discovered while walking in the countryside. Here the neck of a Greek or Roman terracotta amphora, which Richier found on a beach in the Camargue region of France, forms the neck of a seated female figure. The original fragment was incorporated into a clay model, before being cast in plaster and then in bronze. Water suggests an analogy between the female form and the water receptacle, both being sources of life.

Gallery label, December 2007

© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2020

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Ethel Ashton

Alice Neel, Ethel Ashton  1930

Lent by the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of Hartley and Richard Neel, the artist's sons 2001
L02332 Ethel Ashton, 1930, was painted at one of the most trying times in Alice Neel's life. In May of that year her husband, the Cuban artist Carlos Enríquez (1900-1957), had left her, moving out of their New York apartment and taking their daughter Isabella (called Isabetta, 1928-1982) to Havana to be raised by his two sisters. Penniless, Neel was forced to sublet the apartment and move back to her parents' home in Colwyn, Pennsylvania. Every day she would travel to Philadelphia to work at the studio of Ethel Ashton (1896-1975) and Rhoda Meyers, two friends from the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design), where Neel had studied between 1921 and 1925. In mid-August Neel suffered a nervous breakdown and by October she had been hospitalised in Philadelphia. Of this time Neel later wrote, 'I worked at their studio every day. You can't imagine how I worked. I wouldn't have carfare; I wouldn't have enough for lunch. I had a terrible life.' ('Alice on Alice', in Patricia Hills, New York 1983.) In the short space of time that she worked in Meyers's and Ashton's studio, however, Neel painted a number of important early works, including portraits of both her friends, Rhoda Meyers with Blue Hat, 1930 (private collection), and Ethel Ashton. Neel was frustrated by the marginalised status of women artists and her nude portraits of Ashton and Meyers as painted models rather than artists in their own right deliberately court and complicate stereotypes of women. Neel painted Ashton as a large, ungainly and hesitant looking figure. The deliberate awkwardness of the painting recalls the Expressionism of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976) or even the sculptures and prints of Ernst Barlach's (1870-1938). The position of the artist in relation to the sitter, above and off-centre, results in the distortion of the latter's body and features, emphasising her sagging fleshiness. Bright white light coming from the right of the painting accentuates the misshapen folds of flesh and gives the body an air of substantial, almost sculptural, bulkiness. The cropping of the figure and shallow setting add to a sense of anxiety; the overall effect is that of a reluctant, cornered goddess of fertility caught in the headlights of a vehicle. 'Don't you like her left leg on the right, that straight line?' Neel later wrote. 'You see, it's very uncompromising. I can assure you, there was no one in the country doing nudes like this. And also, it's great for Women's Lib, because she's almost apologizing for living.' (Quoted in Alice Neel: Paintings from the Thirties, 1997, p.66.) The painting itself is not apologetic; it is confident and uncompromising. It offers the viewer an uncomfortable but strongly depicted image of femininity. Curator Ann Temkin, discussing Neel's 1980 Self-portrait (private collection), describes it as 'not calculated to please anyone, least of all the misshapen sitter', adding, 'like much of Neel's work over the course of five decades, the painting is happy to look wrong.' ('Alice Neel: Self and Others', in Temkin, ed., 2000, p.13.) This is a description that could as easily be applied to Ethel Ashton. Further reading:
Patricia Hills, Alice Neel, New York 1983, reproduced p.31 in colour
Denise Bauer, 'Alice Neel's Female Nudes', Woman's Art Journal, volume 15, number 2, Fall 1994/Winter 1995
Alice Neel: Paintings from the Thirties
, exhibition catalogue, Robert Miller Gallery, New York 1997, reproduced p.67 in colour
Ann Temkin (ed.), Alice Neel, exhibition catalogue, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia 2000 Giorgia Bottinelli
March 2002

© The estate of Alice Neel

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Walking Dream with Four Foot Clamp

Jim Dine, Walking Dream with Four Foot Clamp  1965

Walking Dream with Four Foot Clamp comprises three rectangular canvases across which are shown nineteen pale pink ladies’ legs. These appear in profile against a sketchy grey background, making the image almost monochromatic. The legs on the left-hand and central canvases all point towards the left as though moving in that direction. On the right-hand canvas the legs point in the opposite direction, apart from the only ‘pair’ in the painting, which is seen from the front at the very end of the line and appears stationary. All of the feet are clad in pointed, black heeled shoes, and most of the legs are shown up to mid-thigh height, the level that a 1960s mini-skirt might reach, while pieces of material resembling skirts or trousers are suggested by pencil lines in the grey section above and behind the thighs. A sense of movement is achieved by the profusion of legs, and the repetition of specific styles of shoe implies the legs’ progression across the canvas. The outline of a ceiling light seen from various angles appears in several places across the background. The central canvas projects further out towards the viewer than the other two, being fastened to a slightly deeper support. A clamp is attached to this middle section and a spanner is fixed to the clamp as though the process of assembling the structure might be ongoing, and Dine has painted the shadow of the spanner onto the canvas.

© Jim Dine

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NUD CYCLADIC 3

Sarah Lucas, NUD CYCLADIC 3  2010

NUD CYCLADIC 3, along with NUD CYCLADIC 6 (Tate T13453) and NUD CYCLADIC 10 (Tate T13452), is one of a series of sculptures made in 2010 by Sarah Lucas collectively referred to as NUDS. Each is made from tan nylon tights stuffed with pale-coloured fluff and twisted into an ambiguous, biomorphic form, resting on top of a plinth made from breezeblocks stacked on a wooden base. The sheer nylon tubes, contorted into looped and knotted forms are at once suggestive of fleshy body parts and smooth mottled marble. While the shapes evoke limbs and orifices, it is not possible to fix the forms to a single figurative referent: the suggestion of one body part dissolves as the hint of another emerges.

© Sarah Lucas

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Untitled

Mark Rothko, Untitled  c.1946–7

This work belongs to the transitional period for Rothko. In the early 1940s he had used references to ancient myth to express the brutal anxieties of a world at war. Increasingly, however, he saw literal depictions of mythic subjects as inhibiting the viewer’s response. Describing the biomorphic forms in paintings such as this, he wrote: ‘every shape becomes an organic entity, inviting the multiplicity of associations inherent in all living things’.

Gallery label, October 2016

© Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/DACS 2020

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Elective Affinities

Hannah Wilke, Elective Affinities  1978

© reserved

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Lionel Wendt, [title not known]  c.1934–7

Wendt is considered one of Asia’s earliest modern photographers. He was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) to a prominent family. Travelling to Europe in 1919 to study law, he encountered experimental music, visual art and literature. He kept up-to-date with developments in European modern art – including surrealism – on his return to Colombo in 1924. But instead of reproducing modernist conventions in his photographs, Wendt used what he had gained in Europe to convey the richness of Sri Lankan contemporary life and traditions.

Gallery label, October 2016

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Art in this room

Women and Bird in the Moonlight
Joan Miró Women and Bird in the Moonlight 1949
Men Shall Know Nothing of This
Max Ernst Men Shall Know Nothing of This 1923
The Doll
Hans Bellmer The Doll 1936, reconstructed 1965

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Louise Bourgeois Mamelles 1991, cast 2001
Draped Nude
Henri Matisse Draped Nude 1936
The Tree of Fluids
Jean Dubuffet The Tree of Fluids 1950

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