Victor Pasmore, R.A.
- Victor Pasmore, R.A.
- Children Playing on the Banks of a River
- signed with initials
- oil on canvas
- 58.5 by 79.5cm.; 23 by 31¼in.
- Executed in 1946-7.
London, Arts Club, Dover Street, 6th - 24th November 1978 (details untraced);
London, The Royal Academy of Arts, Victor Pasmore, 13th September - 19th October 1980, cat. no.12, with Arts Council tour to Cartwright Hall, Bradford, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, Norwich, Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester, and the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle;
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, Victor Pasmore, 16th November 1988 - 8th January 1989, with tour to Philips Collection, Washington, D.C.
In these works many of the figurative elements – here the children in the matching blue dresses that run in from the left and the figures glimpsed over the brow of the bank – appear to float on, or even above, the surface of the picture. In contrast, other elements – such as the solid flat black form of the pram - lock our eyes onto that surface, negating any sense of illusory depth that other aspects of the picture create, most notably the atmospheric evening skies flecked with pink refractions of the setting sun.
As such, the painting becomes something of a (deliberate) puzzle: Pasmore draws us in to a warm afternoon, redolent with Post-Impressionist calme, luxe et volupté, as the boats skim across the water and the evening's moon begins to show in the sky. And yet he also deflects this illusionism, from the Klimt-like shimmering pattern of the grass that appears totally flat, vertical even, through to the almost Surreal black hat that seems to have lost its wearer and sits - like the pram - on its own plane, the plane of the canvas itself. It is through these elements that Pasmore, following one of the fundamental 'rules of abstraction', draws the viewer's attention to the physical nature of the work, to the picture as an object, with the 'image' being nothing more than an arrangement of colour and shape within the boundaries of the picture's edge: which of course, becomes the guiding principle of Pasmore's constructive abstracts and constructionist reliefs of the 1950s and '60s.
Children Playing on the Banks of a River, like his other great paintings of the period, has more than a nod to Seurat, whose masterpieces Bathers at Asnières (National Gallery, London) and The Bridge at Courbevoie (fig.1, Courtauld Gallery, London) Pasmore would have seen in London, although it was perhaps the Frenchman’s writing on optics that had the greater influence. And Seurat, of course, was a profound early influence on that most unequivocally abstract of British painters of the 1960s, Bridget Riley. Pasmore gives Seurat's pointillist dots more solidity, but there is still the same sense that his works of this period are about the process of seeing – the way our eyes constantly, seamlessly, shift in and out of focus to construct an image on our retina.
Children Playing on the Banks of a River was bought directly from the artist in 1947 by his friend, Valentine Ellis, with £100 of his ‘demob money’, which was a real commitment in post-war Britain. The two men had been friends since the 1930s and Ellis had asked Pasmore to be a witness at his wedding in November 1945. The painting was to hang in pride of place in Ellis's home until his death in 2001 and has remained in the family ever since. If early paintings by Pasmore of this quality very rarely come to market, to have one that has only ever had one owner represents an almost unique opportunity.