Loading Ballast + studies

Illustration © The Estate of John David Roberts. Reproduced with the permission of the William Roberts Society. Catalogue information based on the catalogue raisonné by David Cleall. For this and full details of the exhibitions cited, see the links below. Any auction prices quoted may not include all fees and taxes, such as VAT and Artist's Resale Right charges.

Loading Ballast -- study

Loading Ballast – study (aka Cassis 1922), 1927
Pencil, squared in red ink, on two pieces of paper, one 17.6 cm x 28.3 cm, irregularly laid over the other, 19.7 cm x 33.7 cm

The inscription ‘Cassis 1922’ has been added in ballpoint. A number of Roberts’s smaller works were annotated with dates and or titles in ballpoint, presumably at a later date. The widespread use of the biro in the late 1950s and the 1960s suggests that this annotation may have been made then, and it may not have been accurate so long after the execution of the work. The watercolour of the same scene was dated to 1927 when it was exhibited in 1928, and that date has been adopted here; but it is possible that there was a gap between this study and the completion of the watercolour. The reference to two pieces of paper comes from John Roberts’s notes for the Cambridge exhibition (where the picture was dated to 1922), but is not mentioned on the Tate website.
PROVENANCE: Estate of John David Roberts, accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to Tate 2007 (T12679)
EXHIBITION HISTORY: Abdy Galleries 1931, Reading 1983, Cambridge 1985


Loading Ballast, 1927

Possibly the watercolour (below) shown in Roberts’s 1929 London Artists’ Association exhibition; but that was priced at 20 gns, and the price of 7 gns asked for this work in 1931 may suggest that it was a smaller and/or less finished version that was shown then. And, in a posthumously published essay, Roberts complained of having to pay a commission twice through the London Artists’ Association scheme when Cooling Galleries (hosts of the 1931 LAA exhibition) sold Loading Ballast for 7 gns. The gallery’s commission was £1 9s. 4d., and the LAA commission was 14s. 8d. – leaving £5 3s. 0d. for ‘the struggling young artist’ (‘Dealers and Galleries’, in William Roberts, Five Posthumous Essays and Other Writings (Valencia, 1990), p. 108)
EXHIBITION HISTORY: London Artists’ Association (3) 1931 (7 gns)


Loading Ballast

Loading Ballast (aka The Mazeppa), 1927
Watercolour and drawing, 30 cm x 50 cm

'Drawn during a visit to Cassis in the South of France' – Tate Gallery 1965 catalogue. In his 1985 catalogue notes when the study for this picture was shown in Cambridge, John Roberts stated, 'In 1922 Roberts went to stay at La Ciotat near the little port of Cassis in Provence,' and Williams (2004) suggests that this was soon after the Robertses' marriage in that year. The 1965 catalogue dates the picture to 1924. However, the 1928 London Group catalogue says 1927, and Roberts's memory is likely to have been more reliable closer to the date of the visit. Cassis is a small fishing port near Marseille that attracted artists such as Matisse and Derain, and in the 1920s it was to become associated with a number of British artists, including the Bloomsbury set and the 'Scottish Colourists'. Edward Wadsworth (1889–1949) visited the area in 1921, and returned with Richard Wyndham in 1924. There is a useful point of comparison between Roberts's Loading Ballast and Wadsworth's pictures of sailing boats and seaports of this period; however, a significant difference is Roberts's emphasis on the workers loading the ballast, whereas Wadsworth's seaports are devoid of people and activity. The name of the boat, The Mazeppa, can be clearly read – Mazeppa being the eponymous protagonist of an opera by Tchaikovsky and a poem by Lord Byron.
PROVENANCE: Sir Arthur Bliss > Mr and Mrs Richard Gatehouse > Sotheby’s 13 Dec. 1967 (£280) > Cork Street Gallery > Professor Robert Holmes > Leeds City Art Gallery (bequeathed through the National Art Collections Fund, 1991)
EXHIBITION HISTORY: St George's Gallery (1) 1928, London Group 1928, London Artists' Association (1) 1929 (20 gns), Tate Gallery 1965
Cf. Loading Barges 1913 and Port of London c .1922

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