The Red Cow

John Armstrong (1893 - 1973)

Tempera on wood


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  • About the work

    The Red Cow was painted in 1940 during the period that John Armstrong worked for the War Artists’ Board. The gentle simplicity of this scene of a cow resting in a derelict shelter belies the work’s serious intimation of the destruction of war. The violently stripped bark of the standing trees and the make-shift nature of the shelter instil an underlying sense of disruption and shattered peace. Like his friend and fellow war artist Paul Nash, Armstrong sought to combine Surrealist influences with a tradition of English landscape painting. 

  • About the artist
    John Armstrong, painter, was born in Hastings, Sussex, and educated at St John’s College, Oxford. He attended St John’s Wood Art School both before and after the First World War. Armstrong was influenced by the Italian Surrealist Giorgio de Chirico, whose work was exhibited in London in 1928. In 1933 Armstrong became a member of Unit One, a group that included Barbara Hepworth, Tristram Hillier, Paul Nash, Ben Nicholson and Edward Wadsworth, and which exhibited at the Mayor Gallery, London, in 1934. In 1966 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy. A retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Royal Academy in 1975. His work is included in many major public collections including the Tate Collection and the Arts Council.
  • Explore
    Materials & Techniques
    tempera, wood, tempera painting
  • Details
    The Red Cow
    Tempera on wood
    height: 43.00 cm, width: 53.00 cm
    Purchased from the Fine Art Society, March 1989
    br: JA 40
    Consigned by the artist to Leicester Galleries, London; from whom purchased by ‘F. C. Hooper’ in October 1941; sold through Christie's, London, on 11 November 1988 (Lot 415); from which sale purchased by the Fine Art Society, London; from whom purchased by the Government Art Collection in March 1989
    GAC number