EDWARD WADSWORTH, A.R.A. (1889-1949)
EDWARD WADSWORTH, A.R.A. (1889-1949)
EDWARD WADSWORTH, A.R.A. (1889-1949)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
EDWARD WADSWORTH, A.R.A. (1889-1949)

Number Please!

EDWARD WADSWORTH, A.R.A. (1889-1949)
Number Please!
tempera on paper
12 5/8 x 14 1/8 in. (32.1 x 35.8 cm.)
Executed in 1942.
Commissioned directly from the artist by Imperial Chemical Industries, London.
with Osborne Samuel, London, where purchased by the present owner in November 2009.
J. Black, Edward Wadsworth, Form, Feeling and Calculation: The Complete Paintings and Drawings, London, 2005, pp. 126, 201, no. 404, illustrated.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

In the late autumn of 1941 Edward Wadsworth was commissioned by Sidney Rogerson of the Imperial Chemical Industries in London to produce a number of works, resulting in Number Please!. Described by Jonathan Black as ‘impressive’ (J. Black, op. cit., p. 131) these commissions stimulated the artist’s imagination by providing him with subject matter to which he had never before turned. Sidney Rogerson would later write Wadsworth’s entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, highlighting how important this working relationship was over the course of these commissions.

As can be seen in the present work, Wadsworth was a devoted and detail-oriented artist, crafting works in tempera that are defined by his ‘love for hard textures and powerful streamlined forms’ (J. Rothenstein, Modern English Painters. Volume II: Lewis to Moore, London, 1976, p. 150). Number Please! depicts three women busily working to connect telephone lines in the midst of the war effort. Importantly, the ICI was involved with the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons programme at this time, reflecting their vital role in munitions strategy during the War. This was a time when many thousands of men had left England for the front line, and there was a great need for women to assume roles within corporations that they may not have before the outbreak of war. It is possible that Wadsworth’s commissions from the ICI were intended to encourage women’s participation in the war effort. Certainly, Number Please! presents women’s labour triumphantly as essential to the ICI’s business. The present work is both a patriotic image of the ICI’s commitment to the war effort, and a skilled example of Wadsworth’s ‘life-long passion for machinery’ (J. Rothenstein, op. cit.).

We are very grateful to Dr Jonathan Black for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.

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