Sir Peter Blake, R.A. (b. 1932)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more IMPORTANT WORKS FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE LONDON COLLECTION
Sir Peter Blake, R.A. (b. 1932)

Shoe on the Beach at Nice

Sir Peter Blake, R.A. (b. 1932)
Shoe on the Beach at Nice
signed, inscribed and dated '"The beach at nice"/1957./Peter Blake.' (on the reverse)
oil on board
8 x 6 3/8 in. (20.2 x 16.3 cm.)
with Thomas Gibson Fine Art, London, where purchased by the present owner, June 1972.
Exhibition catalogue, Peter Blake, London, Tate Gallery, 1983, p. 77, no. 14.
C. Grunenberg & L. Sillons (eds.), exhibition catalogue, Peter Blake: A Retrospective, Liverpool, Tate Gallery, 2007, p. 16, exhibition not numbered, illustrated.
M. Livingstone, Peter Blake one man show, Farnham, 2009, pp. 38, 40, illustrated.
London, Portal Gallery, Exhibition of works by Peter Blake and Roddy Maude-Roxby - and objects by Ivor Abrahams, March - April 1960, no. 4, as 'Beach at Nice'.
Bristol, City Art Gallery, Peter Blake, November - December 1969, no. 11, as 'Shoe'.
London, Tate Gallery, Peter Blake, February - March 1983, no. 14.
Hannover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Peter Blake Retrospective, April - June 1983, no. 13.
Liverpool, Tate Gallery, Peter Blake: A Retrospective, June - September 2007, exhibition not numbered.
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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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Lot Essay

On completing his M.A. degree at the Royal College of Art in London in summer 1956, Peter Blake immediately set off on a year-long journey around Europe on a Leverhulme Research Award, given to him for the purpose of investigating popular art. This prolonged journey from the Netherlands through Belgium, France, Italy and finally back through France to Spain, much of it spent on his own, was to prove decisive in confirming his passion for folk art and the ephemera of popular culture. It was also an education in art history for a young man, then in his early twenties, who had not previously travelled outside the UK and who was able to see a wide range of historical paintings at first hand in the great museums. Along the way he bought postcards bearing reproductions of works of art he had admired as well as cigarette packets, posters and other printed ephemera, all of which he was to take both into his ever growing collections and as materials to be incorporated on his return to the UK into collages and paintings such as The Fine Art Bit (1959; Tate). Even into his eighties he found himself still able to make use of some of this material acquired more than half a century earlier, for example in digital prints made from scans of those very items which had remained in his possession all his adult life.

It was typical of Blake that Shoe on the Beach at Nice and the seven or so other paintings made en route during the later stages of the trip, painted on small sheets of board for easy portability, should focus on prosaic and mundane scenes and objects that had caught his attention rather than on the artistic masterpieces with which he might have felt in competition but from which he had nevertheless gained inspiration. Rather than gazing out from the promenade in Nice to paint a townscape or Mediterranean seascape, as Matisse and other illustrious forebears had done, he finds himself shuffling along the large pebbles of a beach, his gaze caught by an abandoned cheap shoe made of plastic and a solitary matchstick. Instead of revelling in the glamour of the French Riviera, he focuses on a rather forlorn and melancholic scene that chimes more powerfully with the shy personality of a loner self-consciously observing from the sidelines; his very decision to paint a single shoe rather than a pair speaks of the poignant solitariness that he must have felt as a single man travelling on his own for such an extended period. Yet his travels from Paris through the south of France were, in fact, in the company of the Scottish painter Peter McGinn, whom he had met before and encountered by chance in Paris when the latter was setting off by van for the British School in Rome.

The precisionist technique has much in common not only with that of the Netherlandish painters of the early 15th century who were among the first to use oil paint, but closer to him with that of the Magical Realism of American painters working mid-century, such as Ben Shahn and Honoré Sharrer, which he had discovered in the Tate Gallery’s exhibition Modern Art in the United States in early 1956. Lavishing his attention and almost microscopically detailed technique on objects that would have passed unnoticed by most tourists as unworthy of a sideways glance or as uninteresting in themselves, Blake revels in the mystery embedded in the everyday, in simple objects that we might easily take for granted but which through the act of reverential contemplation itself become the source of an unexpected epiphany.

We are very grateful to Marco Livingstone for preparing this catalogue entry.

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