- Museum number
- Object: Composition
Abstract composition of squares and rectangles. 1950
Colour lithograph, printed in black, grey, yellow, orange and beige-brown
- Production date
Height: 322 millimetres
Width: 256 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from Frances Carey & Antony Griffiths, 'Avant-Garde British Printmaking 1914-1960', BMP 1990, no.180.
The artist was working on this lithograph in 1949-50, at the same time as a painting, 'Composition' 1949 (now in the Tate Gallery), which was almost identical in composition but used a different range of colours. The print was exhibited under the title 'Abstract' at the Redfern Gallery in December 1950 (no. 29, priced at 3 guineas), and again in November the following year as no. 316, 'Abstract, Grey and Yellow'. It was also shown at the first Biennale in São Paolo in 1951 and in the first of Adrian Heath's studio exhibitions in March 1952.
The painting to which the print is related was first shown in a London Group exhibition in February 1951 and reproduced in May 1951 in Martin's essay on 'Abstract Art' which was published by the AIA as 'Broadsheet No. 1'. According to the information given to the Tate Gallery by the artist, he spent a long time on this painting in order to achieve the greatest degree of flatness possible, by eliminating all traces of brushstrokes. "At the time of its exhibition in 1951, 'Composition' was the purest expression of abstract art [he] had arrived at" and he continued to develop this theme of coloured areas, rectangles, circles and their derivatives until the second half of the decade, at which point he became more involved with lines and their directions (Tate Gallery, 'Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1972-4', pp.195-6). In 'Nine Abstract Artists' Lawrence Alloway characterised this type of composition as possessing "a slightly disordered geometry, reminiscent of collages assembled by dirty hands. They were smudged and atmospheric and the rectangles were set in lively relationships by small departures from horizontal and vertical axes."
Apart from 'Chalk Farm', which was exhibited at the Redfern Gallery in 1949, 'Composition 1950' was the only lithograph made by Martin at this period. His other prints of the 1950s were all linocuts.
A letter from the artist's son Paul Martin to Frances Carey dated 18.7.90 states that he believes that his father may have printed this lithograph at Goldsmiths.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1990/1 Sept.-Jan., BM, 'Avant-Garde British Printmaking 1914-1960', no.180
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number