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John Randall Bratby (1928-92)

A self-portrait in a mirror signed and dated 1976

Pencil | 39.8 x 29.0 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 922856

A self-portrait drawing of John Bratby showing his face reflected in a shaving mirror held in his left hand, with the thumb intruding upon the image. His slippered feet rest on a stool at lower right, and beyond is a narrow room, with clothes thrown on a chair, a curtain drawn across a door and an extractor fan above. His many such works often play in this manner on the trappings of self-portraiture and frequently include mirrors, canvases, his hands, even his fingerprints. Signed and dated, lower right.

John Bratby was one of the founders of the so-called ‘Kitchen Sink’ school of painting in London in the 1950s – in fact the term, subsequently expanded beyond painting to include theatre, film and literature, was derived from a 1954 article by the art critic David Sylvester that took its title, ‘The Kitchen Sink’, from a painting by Bratby. His works were primarily portraits and domestic interiors and here he combines these two idioms. Bratby’s paintings were executed with a heavy impasto and strident colours and his drawings were similarly forceful, usually made with a thick, dark pencil pressed firmly into the surface of the paper.

Text adapted from Portrait of the Artist, London, 2016