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 Wash, c. 1929

Bath-night (aka The Wash), 1929
Oil on canvas, 40.5 cm x 51 cm

Sarah and William Roberts's son, John David Roberts, was born in 1919, and at the time of this picture would have been about 10 years old – which suggests that there could be an autobiographical element here. The family were struggling financially during the 1920s and '30s, and lived in a succession of small rented flats. While this scene is not necessarily a literal depiction of John being bathed by Sarah, with William Roberts reading the newspaper, it is nevertheless probably drawn fairly directly from the Robertses' domestic experience. Sarah and John would serve as models for William Roberts throughout his life, sometimes quite directly. However, Roberts also created characters in his paintings that are more generalised types – built upon observed gestures, postures, facial expressions and clothes while not being actual portraits – and this is probably the case with this work.
PROVENANCE: Sir Kenneth Clark > ? > Bolton Museum and Art Gallery (N.B. soemtimes incorrectly titled Miner's Toilet – cf. letter from John David Roberts to Bolton Museum 10 Mar. 1987 and to Dartington 1993)
EXHIBITION HISTORY: London Artists' Association (3) 1931 (as The Wash, 30 gns), Manchester 1985, Newcastle 2004, Chichester 2007, Beijing 2012

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