- Museum number
- Object: The chess players
Abstraction of two figures playing chess. 1949
Etching and aquatint
- Production date
Height: 408 millimetres
Width: 410 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from Frances Carey & Antony Griffiths, 'Avant-garde British Printmaking 1914-1960', BMP, 1990, no.199.
The composition of this print closely follows that of a painting of 1940 with the same title and same proportions. Two preparatory drawings for it - which, like the painting, show the marked influence of Wyndham Lewis - are reproduced as figs 10 and 11 of the 1972 V & A booklet. One of these makes it clear that the object below the left picture in the background is an alarm clock; the book in the lower right corner is labelled "Hegel". The subject commemorates the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact of August 1939, when Stalin and Hitler signed a non-aggression treaty and shared out their neighbours' territories between themselves. The two figures are seen exchanging pieces with a view to gaining a mutual advantage; this was the effect of a second secret accord in September, when Germany transferred Lithuania to the Soviet sphere in return for an extension of the German area in Poland.
This print was published in two different editions, one in 1949 and the other in 1951. The first edition, exhibited at the Redfern Gallery in 1949 at the price of 6 guineas, was printed in colours and the stated edition size was 25 (though there is every reason to suppose that only a few impressions of this edition were ever printed). An impression of this, annotated "2nd state", was illustrated in black and white in the 1988 Mayor/Redfern catalogue, p.33. Comparison with the British Museum impression (for which we are most grateful to its current owner) shows that the BM impression is identical in its state to the main plate which carried the design; the second plate carried the colour, which was brushed onto an unworked plate in monotype fashion in red and grey inks. In 1951 Evans reworked the plate (the new date is added in the plate) and added a layer of aquatint; this state was published in monochrome only in an edition of 25. The British Museum also possesses an impression of the 1951 edition (1971,0215.17).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1990/1 Sep-Jan, BM, 'Avant-Garde British Printmaking 1914-1960', no.199
1991/2 Nov-Jan, Middlesborough AG, Avant-Garde British Printmaking
1992 Feb-April, Plymouth City Mus & AG, Avant-Garde British Printmaking
1992 May-June, Glasgow, Hunterian AG, Avant-Garde British Printmaking
1992 Oct-Dec, Manchester, Whitworth AG, Avant-Garde British Printmaking
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number