The Space Within or the Forest of Douanier Rousseau

Victor Pasmore (1908 - 1998)

Oil on canvas laid on board

1987-1988

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  • About the work
    Location
    Country: Luxembourg
    City: Luxembourg
    Place: British Embassy

    Set on top of a piece of wooden board, a canvas of blurry green forms is dotted with coloured spots and shapes in this striking late work by Victor Pasmore. The sprayed circular forms suggest a group of leafy trees, with the dark vertical and horseshoe shapes at the bottom indicating a trunk or branch. Despite its near-abstract composition, the painting’s title refers to a forest and more specifically the dense, tropical forests painted by the self-taught French artist, Henri Rousseau (1844–1910), known for his unusual subjects and naïve style. 


    Another major artistic influence on Pasmore’s painting were the late paintings of J. M. W. Turner, who Pasmore regarded as ‘the father of modern anarchism in painting…’ In 1984 he delivered a lecture, ‘Turner and the Modern Revolution in Painting’ at the Turner Society, London. He spoke of discovering Turner’s paintings which ‘seemed to shine like the sun, projecting themselves forward to the eye like real objects’. Pasmore’s lecture led him to experiment with pure colour sprayed onto canvas and board, without the use of boundary lines, resulting in an effect which he described in 1989 as ‘…colour liberated from the boundaries of solid form.’


    The integration of a board is integral to this work, as it was not intended solely as a framing device. From 1970 Pasmore introduced unconventional materials in his artistic practice, using unusual methods such as spraying, blowing and blotting paint. He felt that the patterns and textures of different surfaces, combined with inventive painting techniques, contributed to the pace of a composition. His affinity for non-representational, or what he called ‘pure’ forms, can be likened to the abstract tones, moods and emotions created by a piece of music.


  • About the artist
    Victor Pasmore was one of the leading British painters and printmakers of the twentieth century. He studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and began exhibiting with the London Group in 1930, becoming a member in 1934. Together with William Coldstream, Claude Rogers and Graham Bell, he founded the Euston Road School in 1937. Concerned with developing an objective approach to the depiction of everyday subjects, their paintings depicted realistic subjects in a realistic manner. Pasmore taught at the Camberwell School of Art from 1943 to 1949,and turned from representational to abstract art towards the end of this period. Awarded the CBE in 1959, his work was selected for the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1960, after which he gave up teaching to focus on his art practice. He received a series of prizes for his graphic works in the 1970s and his work is represented in public collections throughout the world. He was made a Companion of Honour in 1981 and elected a Royal Academician two years later. He died in Malta in 1998.
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    Materials & Techniques
    canvas, oil, oil painting
  • Details
    Title
    The Space Within or the Forest of Douanier Rousseau
    Date
    1987-1988
    Medium
    Oil on canvas laid on board
    Dimensions
    height: 122.00 cm, width: 122.00 cm
    Acquisition
    Purchased from Sotheby's, 28 June 2006
    Inscription
    lower left: VP
    Provenance
    Stichting Veranneman Fondation, Kruishoutern, Belgium; purchased from Sotheby's, 28 June 2006 (Lot 61)
    GAC number
    18077