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The Illusion of the American Frontier

From 03 November 2015 to 07 February 2016

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Edward S. Curtis
An Oasis in the Badlands (detail), 1905
Photography, gelatin silver. 15.2 x 20.2 cm
Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.
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Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

Edward Wadsworth
Vorticist Composition
Oil on canvas
76.3 x 63.5 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Numero de inventario
INV. Nr. 780 (1980.6)

More information about this work

Shortly after the Thyssen-Bornemisza acquired the present Vorticist Composition by Edward Wadsworth , which is held by Richard Cork to be the painter’s only work in oil, a sensational controversy over its authenticity was unleashed in the British press, even leading to a police investigation. The critic Brian Sewell, who was among those responsible for triggering the debate, underlined the difficulty of verifying its provenance and even doubted that it was an oil painting. Although the history of the painting’s early owners is shrouded in mystery and it is not possible to ascertain whether it really did belong to the theatre impresario David Litvinoff , as Christie’s published in the catalogue of the February 1980 auction, it has been proven to be an oil painting. In addition, the painter’s daughter Barbara Bethmann-Hollweg authenticated the work in 1988 and included it in her monograph on her father’s oeuvre published a year later.

X-ray analysis shows that Wadsworth had previously painted a portrait of a man with a pipe and hat on the canvas. According to some authors, the pose of this figure, bent over his knee, which is positioned on a chair, forming very sharp angles, influenced and prompted the rhythms of the abstract composition. In this respect, Christopher Green argues that the image is more closely related to the movement of a figure than to the urban or mechanical geometries that were so characteristic of Vorticism , while Barbara Bethmann-Hollweg goes even further, entitling the painting Vorticist Composition . Guitar Player.

Paloma Alarcó

© 2009 Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Paseo del Prado 8, 28014 Madrid, España

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