AN ENGLISH CUBIST
No! No! Roger, Cézanne Did Not Use It
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.
No! No! Roger, Cézanne Did Not Use It, 1934
Drawing and watercolour, 35.6 cm x 43.2 cm
This satirical picture shows Clive Bell correcting Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell for deviating from the artistic practice of Paul Cézanne. Duncan Grant is also painting in the background.
William Roberts's closest involvement with the Bloomsbury Group, of which Fry, Grant and the Bells were members, was in 1913, when he briefly worked at Fry's Omega Workshops. In the following year Clive Bell published Art (London: Chatto & Windus), in which he declared that 'Cézanne is a type of the perfect artist', and 'a whole generation of otherwise dissimilar artists have drawn inspiration from his work. That is why it implies no disparagement of any living artist when I say that the prime characteristic of the new movement is its derivation from Cézanne' (p. 142).
In the first years of the 1930s Roberts was brought back into contact with the Bloomsbury Group through Maynard Keynes. Roberts joined the London Artists' Association, whose founder members were Keynes, Samuel Courtauld, Fry, Grant and Vanessa Bell. In Roberts's memoir 'Dealers and Galleries' (written in the early 1970s and published posthumously) he was scathing of the involvement of the Bloomsbury artists in an association created to support 'young and struggling' artists.
In 1934 the date of this watercolour Duncan Grant's resignation from the LAA led to the collapse of the association. Although the critical influence of Fry and Bell within the art world was waning by 1934, Fry did give two well-attended public lectures on British painting (subsequently published under the title Reflections on British Painting). In her book Romantic Moderns (London: Thames and Hudson, 2010) Alexandra Harris describes Fry's position on British art as being 'calculatedly provocative' and quotes him as saying, 'I have to admit sadly that British art is not altogether worthy of [British] civilisation' (p. 129). It would be surprising if William Roberts, this most British of artists, was not offended by this attack on British art, and it is possible that this satirical work was a response either to this or to Duncan Grant's actions.
Roger Fry died in September 1934. This work does not appear to have been exhibited until 1942.
PROVENANCE: Wilfrid Evill (Mar. 1947, £25; inventoried as Bloomsbury Group) > Miss Honor Frost > Sheffield City Art Gallery (bought from the Evill Collection, 1966)
EXHIBITION HISTORY: Redfern Gallery 1942, Leicester Galleries (3) 1952, Brighton 1965, Tate Gallery 1965, Hayward Gallery 1979, Sheffield 1998, Tate Gallery 1999, Newcastle 2004, Sheffield 2010
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