Pasmore, Victor (1908-1998), 'Spiral Motif', Linocut, 1951

'Spiral Motif', Linocut, 1951

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Artist's proof aside from the edition of 20. Signed by the artist in pencil 'A/P VP 51'. Printed at White Ink.

This print is illustrated in Frances Carey & Antony Griffiths, 'Avant-Garde British Printmaking 1914-1960', BMP 1990, Cat no.191. Catalogue entry states:

'Pasmore's early linocuts and lithographs were all a product of the fascination with spiralling forms which dominated his painting in 1950-51. Although these had begun to appear in his work in 1948-9, the motif received further impetus from Pasmore's visit to St Ives in the summer of 1950, when he made a series of diagrammatic drawings of the waves on Porthmeor Beach. These provided the basis for several of the paintings he exhibited at the Redfern Gallery at the end of the year. William Townsend recorded his first glimpse of this work on a visit to Pasmore's studio on 26 October 1950:


"Victor now has, hanging and standing by the bookshelves in the long room, enough new "abstracts" to make a show; the shapes are no longer limited to rectangles and triangles but, as he said, he has tried to invent more complex shapes "and it isn't easy". There are several very beautiful ones composed with spirals. Also saw the drawings and a model showing the design in situ for the tiled decoration V. is doing for a restaurant in the 1951 exhibition; a vastly enlarged drawing, in black, white and grey lines of a waterfall. The design is derived from drawings (of the sea) done by Victor during the summer at St. Ives. A good many of the drawings he did there have been turned into lithographs too, extremely simple designs of houses, rocks, cliffs and spiralling shapes of water, redrawn on transfer paper from sketches made on the spot" ('The Townsend Journals', ed. Andrew Forge, Tate Gallery, 1976, p. 90).

The major compositions of this period were 'The Coast of the Inland Sea I and II', 1950 (Tate Gallery and Private Collection: Bowness and Lambertini 154 and 157), 'The Snowstorm', 1950-51 (Arts Council, commissioned for the Festival of Britain; B and L 158) and the ceramic mural for the Regatta Restaurant on the South Bank, which no longer exists. Pasmore was certainly indebted to Leonardo da Vinci's drawings of rocks and whirlpools, but he explained, as a prelude to a discussion of his 1950 Redfern Gallery exhibition at the ICA in January 1951, that what he had done was

"not the result of a process of abstraction in front of nature, but a method of construction emanating from within. I have tried to compose as music is composed, with formal elements which, in themselves, have no descriptive qualities at all. The spiral movement which can be discerned throughout nature, in many different forms, is reduced to its single common denomination - the simple spiral" ('The Artist Speaks', Art News and Review, vol. III, no 1 (February 1951), p.3).

None of the prints of spiral or linear motifs from the early fifties was ever published in proper editions at the time, although the one catalogued here was reprinted in the 1960s in an edition of 20 by White Ink Ltd on thin greenish coloured paper, signed with the artist's monogram and dated '51. Since it is the only one of the group to be included in the graphics section of the catalogue raisonné (B and L 1), the only source of information about the others is in the Redfern Gallery exhibition catalogues of the 1950s. This print may have been one of the three linocuts shown there in November 1972 (nos 225-7) under the title 'Linear Motif I, II and III', priced at 6, 4 and 6 guineas respectively; the artist now refers to them as 'Spiral Motifs'. The Arts Council retrospective of Pasmore's work in 1955 included one of the linocuts of 1951 which was closely related to the painting 'Spiral Motif in Black and White' (B and L 164) and a lithograph, together with a number of the St Ives pen and ink drawings (nos 43-8). None of the prints of this period has featured in more recent exhibitions.'

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Reference Bowness and Lambertini, cat. no. 1
Collection British Museum

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