12 August 2021
If you pay a visit to the Kettle’s Yard House at the moment, you might notice a few changes to our usual displays. While some of our artworks are on loan to exhibitions elsewhere, we’ve filled the gaps with pieces from our Reserve Collection – a rare chance to see some artworks not usually on public view.
Here are some of the new faces you might encounter over the next few weeks:
In the Sitting Room
One of our best-loved artworks, Joan Miró’s Tic Tic (1927), is currently on loan to an exciting exhibition at Fundación MAPFRE in Madrid. ‘Miró: Poema’ explores Miró’s engagement with poetry throughout his work: from artworks that blur the boundaries between word and image, to collaborations with contemporary poets.
Tic Tic is an important artwork in the Kettle’s Yard collection, not just for its art historical significance, but for the role it performs in the carefully curated arrangements. Most famously, the painting formed the focus of a visual exercise that Jim Ede would often demonstrate to students that visited his home. Ede wrote: ‘The Miró was to me an opportunity to show undergraduates the importance of balance. If I put my finger over the spot at the top right all the rest of the picture slid into the left-hand bottom corner. If I covered the one at the bottom, horizontal lines appeared, and if somehow I could take out the tiny red spot in the middle everything flew to the edges.’ This is something our Visitor Assistants continue to demonstrate to visitors today.
Ede applied these same theories of composition and balance to every arrangement at Kettle’s Yard, showing how the visual and spatial relationships between artworks could be just as important as the works themselves. In this corner of the sitting room, a fresh lemon on a pewter plate creates a dialogue with the bright yellow dot in the corner of Tic Tic, which in turn speaks to the yellow daffodils in Christopher Wood’s nearby painting, Flowers.
All of this meant that finding a temporary replacement for Tic Tic was not an easy task. However, a search through our Reserve Collection turned up the perfect candidate: Barbara Hepworth’s Two Figures, Yellow and Brown, executed in 1947.
Two Figures, Yellow and Brown combines oil paint and pencil drawing on hardboard. Two geometric forms or ‘figures’ seemingly entwine, rotate, and perhaps even dance as one. The vibrant yellow shape at the centre of the composition sings out against the thinly painted ground that allows the hardboard to peek through.
Placed above the cider screw and decanters, Two Figures, Yellow and Brown creates new connections with artworks and objects in the cottage sitting room. The two transparent forms echo the pair of decanters, while their twisting, rotating movement seems to be a continuation of the spiral cider screw. And (most importantly perhaps) the bright yellow shape at the centre retains the dialogue that Jim Ede created between Miró’s yellow dot and the fresh lemon nearby.
In the Lower Extension
Another iconic painting, Ben Nicholson’s 1933 (musical instruments) can currently be found at Pallant House, Chichester, where it appears as part of their exhibition ‘Ben Nicholson: From the Studio’.
Instead, taking its place on the wall by the Steinway piano is Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s Mother and Child, 1914, taken from our extensive collection of the artist’s works on paper. Mother and Child relates closely to a number of other Gaudier-Brzeska works found elsewhere in the Lower Extension: most obviously Red Stone Dancer, 1914, which shares the contorted limbs and unusual triangular facial features. Across the room, Gaudier-Brzeska’s sculpture Maternity, 1913, presents a radically different approach to the subject, portraying mother and child with naturalism and tenderness.
In the Upstairs Extension
Winifred Nicholson’s Seascape with Dinghy, 1932, is on temporary loan to Compton Verney, Warwickshire, for their exhibition ‘Mary Newcomb: Nature’s Canvas’. Occupying its usual spot in the Upstairs Extension, you can find a large pencil drawing by the artist Elisabeth Vellacott. Vellacott was a Cambridge-based artist who Jim Ede became acquainted with soon after moving to Kettle’s Yard in 1957. Ede amassed a substantial collection of her work, mainly delicate pencil drawings of landscapes like this one. He wrote: ‘It was a great joy to me to find an artist who could leave untouched a large area of paper and yet keep it full. Never in the drawing itself does her paper become empty, so subtly does she approach it with her pencil.’
This particular scene, Trees and Water – Moat of the Manor, Hemingford Grey, executed in 1971, depicts the 12th-century Manor of Hemingford Grey near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire. Hemingford Grey was the home of writer Lucy M. Boston, where Vellacott had lodgings. During the Second World War, the two women held gramophone concerts for RAF servicemen stationed nearby, not unlike Jim and Helen Ede’s scheme for servicemen in Tangier.