Lot 8
  • 8

Marlow Moss

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
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  • Marlow Moss
  • White, Red and Black
  • signed and dated 1949 on the frame
  • oil on canvas with applied wood
  • 63.5 by 63.5cm.; 25 by 25in.


Gimpel & Hanover Gallery, Zürich, where acquired by the present owner, 4th September 1979


Zürich, Gimpel & Hanover Gallery, Marlow Moss: Constructions, Drawings, Paintings, 1st December 1973 - 19th January 1974, cat. no.17, illustrated, with tour to Gimpel Fils, London.


Original canvas. There is very minor surface dirt and dust, with one or two very slight flecks of surface matter, visible upon very close inspection and handling marks to the frame. There is craquelure visible to the surface, and fine reticulation to the black pigment. The craquelure is raised to places on the frame, particularly the lower edge with resultant losses to the extreme edges and further frame abrasions. There are some isolated flecks of very minor loss to the paint on some of the applied wooden elements, most noticeably the bottom left applied piece. The horizontal applied element above the red square is lifting away slightly from the canvas, and may benefit from treatment. Ultraviolet light reveals isolated areas of fluorescence and probable retouchings to the white background pigment to a few places surrounding the applied wooden elements as well as to one or two of the raised wooden elements. There are further areas of fluorescence and retouchings to the white wooden frame. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

By the mid-1940s the denizens of the Cornish peninsular were starting to get used to having avant-gardists in their midst. The fishing villages of St Ives and Newlyn had been attracting painters and their models since the late Victorian era, but when Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth arrived in Carbis Bay in 1939, things took a turn for the modern, especially when Naum Gabo - Russian émigré, former teacher at the Bauhaus – followed them to the  ‘sea-coast of Bohemia’. Nothing, however, could have quite prepared the residents of Lamorna for the arrival of one Marjorie Jewell Moss in 1941.

With her cropped hair, cravat and jodphurs, Moss looked like she had stepped straight from a cabaret in the Weimar republic. And if the locals had ventured into her small studio, what they would have seen would have been incomprehensible. Even in the 1940s, very few people in Britain would have been familiar with De Stijl (Nicholson and his first wife Winifred were virtually alone in actually owning a Mondrian) and yet here was Moss making sharp, pared-down, elegant Neo-Plastic constructions and paintings in a small wood-lined studio by the sea.

Moss's epiphany as an artist had occurred in Paris in 1927 when she first saw a work by Mondrian in person. Two years later, when she made her first Neo-Plastic painting (two lines crossing at right angles on a white ground), she met the 'Master' himself and would keep in regular touch with him until he left Paris in 1938. It was Mondrian who put Moss's name forward to join Abstraction-Création, a loosely affiliated group, led by Van Doesberg, Herbin, Helion and Vantongerloo (and to which both Nicholson and Hepworth had been associated) that was set up to counter the influence of Surrealism through purist abstraction.

That Marlow Moss is little known in comparison to her peers from Abstraction Création or Groupe Espace may well have something to do with the exile of her final years, at the westernmost tip of an island already at one remove from the Continent and not altogether sympathetic to geometric abstract art.  But it is also a factor of her work being so rare. In 1944 the house that she had been forced to abandon at the outbreak of the War was shelled, destroying much of her oeuvre. The tiny but beautiful catalogue that accompanied the 1975 retrospective exhibition at Gimpel & Hanover Gallery in Zurich – the gallery where the Swiss collector Branco Weiss acquired the present work – offers a tantalising glimpse of what remained, but even these works have rarely been seen since. As such the story of Marlow Moss has almost faded out, to white. The current exhibition at Tate St Ives however, with what little there is to hand, may well encourage a wider appreciation of a unique artist.