The Masks

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.

The Masks

The Masks (aka Masked Figures), c.1932
Oil on canvas, 100 cm x 127 cm

PROVENANCE: WR > Count Vanden Heuvel > Sotheby's 4 Nov. 1959 (£220) > Wilfrid Evill > Miss Honor Frost (1963) > Sotheby's 15 June 2011 (£457,250) > Frank Cohen
EXHIBITION HISTORY: London Artists' Association (1) 1933 ('The picture of the exhibition . . . is "Masks," by Mr. William Roberts. In a close-packed composition it represents a group of Cockneys, on a festive occasion, noisily absorbed in the joke of a toy horse belonging to a half-flattered and half-outraged little boy. From the presence of a real horse in the background it may be assumed that the joke is about "odds." The pictorial interest is in the agitated internal movement, a raucous movement set up within the group by the play of masks and hands, and in the harsh but somehow pleasing colour. Everything seems to be dominated by the hoarseness of the implied voices' – The Times, 13 Jan. 1933; 'Among the pictures the honours go to "The Masks," by Mr. William Roberts … Mr. Roberts might be called our Cockney Old Master. It is clear – in this picture and elsewhere – that he has made an intelligent study of the early Italians, but he seems to be able to apply their methods without any effect of discrepancy to the raciest contemporary subjects' – Truth, 18 Jan 1933), Pittsburgh 1934, Lefevre Gallery 1938 (150 gns), New York 1939, Contemporary Art Society 1961, Brighton 1965, Tate Gallery 1965, Chatsworth 2012

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