Lot 3
  • 3

Victor Pasmore, R.A.

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
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  • Victor Pasmore, R.A.
  • Still Life with Wine Bottles
  • signed with initials 
  • oil on canvas
  • 46 by 61cm.; 18 by 24in.
  • Executed in 1936.


Leicester Galleries, London, where acquired by Lord & Lady Attenborough, 15th July 1958 


Clive Bell, Victor Pasmore, Penguin, London, 1945, illustrated pl.9;
Alan Bowness and Luigi Lambertini, Victor Pasmore, Thames & Hudson, London, 1980, cat. no.21, illustrated p.288.


Original canvas. There is a push to the canvas in the upper centre of the work, but otherwise the canvas appears sound. The canvas undulates slightly. There are stretcher lines visible along the edges, with some fine lines of associated craquelure. There are some very fine, minor isolated lines of craquelure in several places. There is a small diagonal scratch in the lower right quadrant of the work, and a further very small scratch just beneath this. There is also a very small scratch in the lower left corner. There is some slight blooming to the varnish apparent to the brown table near the lower horizontal edge. There is some light surface dirt across the work. The work may benefit from a light clean. Subject to the above, the work appears to be in good overall condition. Ultraviolet light reveals a milky varnish, making the surface quite difficult to interpret. There are some areas of fluorescence in the foreground, which may correspond to retouching. The work is presented in a ornate gilt frame with a linen slip. 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

The year after this work was painted, under the generous patronage of Kenneth Clark, Victor Pasmore was able to leave his clerking job at the London County Council and devote himself fully to painting. After the unexpected death of his father in 1926, Pasmore had to put aside his ambitions for art school and commit himself to earning a regular salary. He was not alone among artists in seeking alternative sources in income in the 1930s – Francis Bacon turned to interior design and Henry Moore to the state educational system. The day job proved little hindrance, however, for London provided ample inspiration for this especially talented painter: ‘There [in London] I became involved with young artists who introduced me to the new experience in painting – the revolutionary works of the School of Paris. I became acquainted with Gauguin and Van Gogh, Rousseau and Modigliani, Matisse and Picasso…Although these painters still represented the natural world they did so with a freedom and independence which completely captured my enthusiasm. Metaphorically, I boarded the train to Paris overnight and immersed myself in the subjective freedom and abstract representation of the School of Paris’ (the Artist, quoted in Bowness and Lambertini, op. cit., p.34).

In these early years Pasmore was easily accepted into the elite of the British avant-garde - in 1934 he joined the prestigious London group, which had been established by the likes of Harold Gilman, David Bomberg and Percy Wyndham Lewis, and also participated in the Objective Abstractions exhibition at the Zwemmer gallery. Embolded by the support from Kenneth Clark, in October 1937, together with Claude Rogers and William Coldstream, Pasmore established the School of Painting and Drawing at 12 Fitzroy Street, which soon moved to 314/316 Euston Road. The school sought to encourage art that was socially relevant to a world in the midst of a deep recession and on the brink of war.  Using traditional subject matter, the school promoted a representational, severely objective style and, though hampered by the outbreak of the Second World War, propagated an influential enough aesthetic to be coined the ‘Euston Road School’ by Clive Bell and to inspire a generation of painters such as Rodrigo Moynihan, Lawrence Gowring, William Townsend and Geoffrey Tibble.

With a precise and subtly arranged composition, Still Life with Wine Bottles is a prime example of Pasmore’s Euston Road style. The muted palette, with a free and effective application of colour and form, is inspired by the paintings of Walter Sickert, who was a figurehead for the school. In the same way that William Scott was brought to abstraction through the still life subject, so too can Pasmore be seen in this work to be edging towards the pure abstraction which would dominate his work from 1947. The flattened pictorial plane, broad brushstrokes and sudden tonal modulations reveal an approach which, although derived from careful observation, is not anchored to naturalism and is heavily indebted to Cézanne. With the benefit of hindsight, the steps between Still Life with Wine Bottles and Pasmore’s reliefs of the 1950s are readily understandable. Furthermore his sincere engagement with representational painting lend his abstract work greater depth and reliability.