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    Sale 5132

    Twentieth Century British Art

    6 December 2007, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 62

    Sir Roland Penrose (1900-1984)


    Price Realised  


    Sir Roland Penrose (1900-1984)
    signed 'R. Penrose' (lower right)
    pencil, watercolour and bodycolour
    12¼ x 14¼ in. (31.1 x 36.2 cm.), shaped
    Executed in 1923.

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    'On the advice of (Roger) Fry, but much against his father's wishes, in October 1922 Penrose set off for Paris and enrolled in the studio of André Lhote, who practised an accessible, academic form of Cubism and was renowned as an imaginative and effective teacher. Lhote was a great admirer of Picasso's work and among the most perceptive French critics to write about it during the 1920s and '30s, and one must presume that Penrose's first-hand knowledge of Picasso's painting increased dramatically under his teacher's guidance' (E. Cowling, Visiting Picasso: The Notebooks and Letters of Roland Penrose, London, 2006, p. 22).
    In the following year, Penrose moved to Cassis-sur-Mer where he bought a house, Villa les Mimosas, that he shared with the Greek painter Yanko Varda and met his first wife Valentine Boué. It was here, in 1923, that Penrose executed the present work. Pequod has clear debts to Braque and Picasso's Cubism. Although Penrose may have met Braque by this time, he would only meet Picasso for the first time in 1936. The ship depicted is named Pequod (the 'P' is obscured in the present work) after the fictional nineteenth century Nantucket whaling ship that appears in the 1851 novel Moby Dick by American author Herman Melville. The Pequod and her crew, commanded by Captain Ahab, go on a three year whaling expedition. She (Pequod) is already old and weathered by many voyages and is owned by a partnership among Quaker captains and a number of citizens in Nantucket.
    This work is one of the earliest surviving examples that Penrose executed. It stands as an extremely rare and important formative work.

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    A gift from the artist to his secretary, Joyce Reeves, and by descent.


    Exhibition catalogue, Roland Penrose, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1980, no. 1.
    R. Penrose, Scrapbook 1900-1981, London, 1981, p. 35, illustrated.


    King's Lynn, Fermoy Arts Centre, Arts Council of Great Britain, Roland Penrose, July - August 1980, no. 1; this exhibition travelled to London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, August - September 1980; Bristol, Arnolfini, October - November 1980; Preston, Harris Museum & Art Gallery, November - December 1980; Hull, Ferens Art Gallery, December 1980 - January 1981.