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    Sale 5884

    20th Century British Art

    15 July 2009, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 12

    Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004)

    Scorpio Series 2, No 49

    Price Realised  


    Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004)
    Scorpio Series 2, No 49
    signed and dated 'W Barns-Graham 1997' (lower right)
    acrylic on paper
    14½ x 22½ in. (36.9 x 57.2 cm.)
    W.B-G. CAT. NO. 20/97/A

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    Lynne Green writes on Barns-Graham's Scorpio Series, 'The sequence of works on paper that dominate the latter half of the 1990s carry the generic title, Scorpio Series. These suites of gestural, abstract images ... were initiated in Barns-Graham's response to frustration. Having spent three hours being interviewed by a critic, she received a phone call reporting that the tape recorder had failed to work - the interview would have to be repeated. Barns-Graham was very upset: more painting time would be lost, and she felt she could ill afford the disruption. Her answer was to throw herself furiously into her work ... Scorpio Series: the title was 'encouraged', she says, by the month of (November) and its star sign - particuarly apt, she felt, because it has a sting in its tale (see L. Green, W. Barns-Graham A Studio Life, Aldershot, 2001, pp. 255-256).

    Martin Gale comments on the present work, 'There is another, more fascinating echo present here too, principally in the single Scorpio Series 2 No 49 and the simply titled Blue Diamond, painted last year [1996]. Both of these works ... possess an electrifying stillness; an utterly centred sense of balance not seen in Barns-Graham's work since the late 1950s. They suggest an almost Tachiste appeal to natural form which recalls Soulages and Riopelle. This does not in any way imply though that they are at all regressive. To have painted these compelling images today was a gutsy move indeed. For, while Barns-Graham can certainly arouse our passions with the agitated ambiguities of Scorpio, here is something very different. These paintings resonate with power and speak, more than any others here, of the artist's fulfilment, resolve and mature assurance (see Exhibition catalogue, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham New Paintings, London, Art First, May - June 1997, intro.).

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    Purchased by the present owner at the 1997 exhibition.


    London, Art First, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham/New Paintings, May - June 1997, no. 17.