William Roberts, R.A. (1895-1980)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE BRITISH COLLECTION
William Roberts, R.A. (1895-1980)

The Walking Delegates

William Roberts, R.A. (1895-1980)
The Walking Delegates
signed and dated 'William Patrick Roberts. 1919' (lower right) and inscribed 'The Walking Delegates.' (lower left)
ink and watercolour
14 x 10 in. (35.6 x 25.4 cm.)
Sir Michael Sadler.
Purchased at the 1940 exhibition by Osborne Robinson.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 7 November 1990, lot 47.
Anonymous sale; Christie's, London, 5 March 1999, lot 63, where purchased by the present owner.
London, Redfern Gallery, The Montague Shearman Collection of French and English Paintings, April - May 1940, no. 113.
London, Redfern Gallery, French and English Paintings, Drawings and Prints, July - September 1940, no. 147.
London, Hamet Gallery, William Roberts: a retrospective exhibition, February - March 1971, no. 27.
London, Entwistle Fine Art, British Artists' Works on Paper, 1900-1950, April 1989, no. 21.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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William Porter

Lot Essay

The Walking Delegates is one of Robert’s finest wartime drawings. Executed in 1919 it depicts the historic peace negotiations, at the Treaty of Versailles, which were drawn up by the victorious Allies in the aftermath of the First World War. Signed on 28 June 1919, five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, these sanctions dictated that Germany accept sole blame for starting the war and set reparations at £6,600 million. They also saw the drastic reduction of Germany’s armed forces and the redistribution of some of their territory as well as the dissolving of their colonies.

Roberts has captured this pivotal moment in history in a group of delegates, who gathered together are immersed in discussions. Contorting his figures into a series of abstracted forms, which read as much as a series of jutting geometric lines as much as they do bodies, Roberts harks back to his Vorticist vernacular, which preoccupied his art around the outbreak of war. Whilst studying at the Slade, Roberts went to Roger Fry’s lectures on Post-Impressionism and in 1912 visited his second Post-Impressionist exhibition, where he was confronted with the radical aesthetics of Picasso and Matisse. The effects of which can be seen in works of this period, such as The Walking Delegates, with Roberts finding particular inspiration in the tubular, machine-like forms of Fernand Léger. Roberts recorded, ‘I became an Abstract painter through the influence of the French Cubists; this influence was further strengthened by a stay in France and Italy during the summer of 1913’ (Roberts, quoted in A.G. Wilson, William Roberts an English Cubist, Aldershot, 2005, p. 19).

Depicted in a series of striking grey and red tones, paired with his angular forms, Roberts succeeds in creating an atmosphere, which is dramatic, and yet also slightly ominous. This is reiterated by Andrew Heard who states, ‘The sombre tones employed reflect the colours of the trenches Roberts had occupied’ (A. Heard, exhibition catalogue, William Roberts 1895-1980, Newcastle, Hatton Gallery, 2004, p. 52). In April 1916 Roberts was called-up for active service, joining the Royal Field Artillery as a gunner. First located at barracks in Woolwich it was not long before Roberts embarked for France, where he was posted to the Vimy Ridge, later fighting at Arras and Ypres. At first excited, Roberts soon turned to despair. He gloomily wrote home, ‘I believe I possess the average amount of hope and patience, but this existence beats me … I am feeling very bitter against life altogether just at present’ (A.G. Wilson, William Roberts an English Cubist, Aldershot, 2005, pp. 36, 39). This tinge of war is felt in works of this period, with The Walking Delegates, being one of the most striking of those to come for sale at auction.

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