Wyndham LEWIS


Stephen Ongpin Fine Art

Medium Pencil with stumping and pale brown wash, heightened with white, on buff paper

Dimension 28.4 x 24 cm (11¹/₈ x 9¹/₂ inches)

This charming drawing is a study of Lewis’s black and white Sealyham terrier ‘Tut’ (sometimes called ‘Tutsi’, and his name apparently an abbreviation of Tutankhamun), who appears - often depicted rolling around on the floor - in a handful of charming drawings of the early 1930s. With the onset of the Second World War, Lewis and his wife Gladys Anne (known as Froanna) took Tut with them to America and Canada, where the dog died of a tumour in 1944. The Lewises were left devastated by his death, with the artist writing of Tut to a friend, ‘Like the spirit of a simpler and saner time, this fragment of primitive life confided his destiny to her [Froanna], and went through all the black days beside us.’

In his catalogue raisonné of Lewis’s work, published in 1971, Walter Michel lists a total of seven drawings of Tut. As he writes of this group, and of the present sheet in particular, ‘In sketching his dog Lewis responded to nature as the Chinese did…Casting geometry aside, he drew an outline as feathery as a ball of fluff…Tut is composed of ears, muzzle, black paws and touches of pencil shading for the fur, all set off against a flat light-brown wash. Lewis liked this picture. He intended to include it in a volume of colour reproductions planned for the thirties but never issued…In pictures of Tut, Lewis makes out of nature a surprising design…’ Another writer has noted that this group of drawings of Tut ‘show Lewis at his closest to the art he admired most, the Chinese Sung period.’

As Michel points out, Lewis had planned to include a colour image of the present sheet in a book. As he further notes, ‘The book, to be called The Role of Line in Art, was to be brought out by Lord Carlow in a hand-printed edition on special paper…It was to have had six colour reproductions, of which three – the final state of Girl Sewing…Portrait of the Artist’s Wife…and Tut… – are extant in colour proof. The text was to have been by Lewis.’

A similar pencil and wash drawing of a frisky Tut, also dated 1931, is in the collection of the Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust and on long-term loan to the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Another drawing of the terrier was included in the 1956 retrospective exhibition Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism, and the appeal of Lewis’s studies of the dog is reflected in a newspaper review of that exhibition, which noted of the drawing, ‘Don’t miss Tutsi...the impudent pup...is an oasis in a stormy sea.’

The present sheet may be counted among the most spirited of Wyndham Lewis’s studies of his beloved dog, and was included in the major retrospective exhibition of the artist’s work held in Madrid in 2010. In the catalogue of that exhibition, it was noted that ‘Lewis shows great sympathy with animals in this drawing, which focuses on the legs, belly and head and at one level is simply a virtuoso exercise in linear invention. However, Lewis also evokes the furry warmth of his pet and its simple enjoyment of physical life.’ Drawings such as this, by their very intimacy and charm, remain somewhat apart from much of the artist’s output. As another recent scholar has noted of the drawings of Tut, these ‘carefree and playful sketches...provide a valuable antidote to the more commonly told tale of Lewis’s notorious aggression, polemic and biting satire.’

330 x 286 mm. (13x 11 1/4 in.) [sheet]

Medium: Pencil with stumping and pale brown wash, heightened with white, on buff paper

Signature: Signed and dated Wyndham Lewis. 1931. at the lower left. 

Dimension: 28.4 x 24 cm (11¹/₈ x 9¹/₂ inches)

Provenance: The Piccadilly Gallery, London
Bought from them by Mrs. Raphael on 9 May 1967 (according to a label on the backing board)
Mrs. Stephen Raphael, in 1971
Anonymous sale, London, Christie’s, 6 November 1992, lot 52 (bt. Eliot)
Valerie Eliot, London
Her posthumous sale (‘A Life’s Devotion: The Collection of the Late Mrs. T. S. Eliot’), London, Christie’s, 20 November 2013, lot 364
Private collection.

Literature: John Rothenstein, ‘Great British Masters’, Picture Post, 25 March 1939, unpaginated, illustrated (‘Few artists to-day capture the lovely simplification of this little drawing.’); Walter Michel, Wyndham Lewis: Paintings and Drawings, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1971, p.396, no.730, pl.98, fig.730; Paul Edwards, Wyndham Lewis, Painter and Writer, New Haven and London, 2000, pp.394-395, fig.222; Paul Edwards et al, Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), exhibition catalogue, Madrid, 2010, p.229, no.138.

Exhibition: London, Ernst Brown & Phillips Ltd. (The Leicester Galleries), Painting and Drawings by Wyndham Lewis, December 1937, no.30; London, Tate Gallery and Arts Council, Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism, 1956, no.31 (as Tutsi, lent by the artist); London, Olympia, Fine Art, Design & Antiques Fair, Wyndham Lewis 1882-1957: an exhibition of paintings and drawings, March 2005, no.129 [ex-catalogue]; Madrid, Fundación Juan March, Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), 2010, no.138.

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