Mobile menu
Roberts, William Patrick (1895-1980)

Co-operation dated 1975

Pencil and watercolour | 42.2 x 29.8 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 922904

A watercolour of three figures working together on a canvas that depicts two topless water-skiers. Each artist holds a loaded palette and brushes, as they crane forward to apply the paint. A folding table with artists' equipment stands on the right. Inscribed lower right: William / Roberts / 1975.

A small pencil study for this composition was inscribed by the artist with the title Co-operation (estate of John David Roberts; on deposit at Tate). The drawing is one of many studies of artistic life, set in galleries, auction rooms, music rooms, studios and workshops, executed by Roberts during the 1970s. Although the artist gained a reputation as a recluse later in life (though he was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1966), these scenes never depict the cliché of the tormented lone artist: they are always, as here, images of fraternal activity and camaraderie.

William Roberts’s career spanned much of the twentieth century. Early training at the Slade School of Fine Art led to a fascination with Cubism, and, falling in with Wyndham Lewis, he was one of the founder members of the Vorticist movement. His mature works were, over 60 years, remarkably consistent in their mode of expression: typically they depict urban, domestic and social scenes in a bird’s-eye view, with groups of blocky figures flattened in the picture plane to generate strong angular patterns.

Text adapted from Portrait of the Artist, London, 2016