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Lot 3: Edward Wadsworth, A.R.A. , 1889-1949 parergon tempera on panel
20th Century British Art
May 20, 2009
London, United Kingdom
Description: signed and dated 1928 tempera on panel
PROPERTY OF SIR ARTHUR AND LADY BLISS
Par-er-gon, -noun: something that is an accessory to a main work or subject; embellishment. The dictionary definition of the somewhat archaic Greek-derived word that Wadsworth chose for his title of the present painting perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the nautical still life paintings which formed a large part of his painted output in the later 1920s. Almost all painted in tempera, the bold colours and the strong lighting combine with the careful placing of the marine ephemera, each rendered with an apparent realism (Wadsworth would frequently alter the forms to suit his compositions) to create a memorable group of paintings which have for many become the signature images of the artist's career. Having their genesis in the south of France dockside paintings of 1924-5, these carefully composed accumulations of apparently disparate and mostly marine-related objects find an acme in the small group produced in 1928. The bold, strong palette marks them as distinct from their antecedents, and the removal of virtually all references to natural objects beyond the sea, sky and clear coastal light which provide the setting gives them an intentionally artificial quality that forces the viewer to embrace the artifice of their composition. At this time it appears that Wadsworth was aware, both through the publications to which he subscribed and from his own trips to Paris, of Leger's exaltation of the everyday and ready-made object. Indeed the combinations of objects which manage to be both functional and aesthetically enticing seems to suggest that Wadsworth was combining this with the apparently disparate influences of the metaphysical paintings of de Chirico and the surrealists such as Pierre Roy. Here a variety of technical and highly-engineered objects are placed before a book which stands on end, its pages fanned towards us. All are placed upon what appears to be an architectural blueprint which bears the artist's name. The small physical scale of the painting seems at odds with the impact that this compact grouping of objects projects, and yet, as the title suggests, whilst the viewer's interest is momentarily captured by each individual element, they are but accessories to the sense of light, space, and, ultimately, the sea that the painting evokes.
Provenance: Arthur Tooth & Sons, London
Dimensions: 40 by 33cm.; 15¾ by 13in.
London, Arthur Tooth & Sons, Edward Wadsworth, May – June 1929, cat. no.5;
London, Colnaghi & Co. Ltd, Edward Wadsworth 1889-1949: Paintings, Drawings and Prints, July-August 1974, cat. no.54;
Bradford, Cartwright Hall, Edward Wadsworth 1889-1949: A Genius of Industrial England, 12 October 1989 - 14 January 1990, cat. no.95 with tour to Camden Arts Centre, London.
Barbara Wadsworth, Edward Wadsworth: A Painter's Life, Michael Russell, Salisbury 1989, pp.235-237, illustrated, W/A 103;
Jonathan Black, Edward Wadsworth: Form, Feeling and Calculation, Philip Wilson Publishers, London 2005, p.67, cat. no.250, illustrated.