About this artwork

This is one of a series of still-life paintings made by Cowie in the 1940s in which he imitates effects found in collage. Painted in glowing colours, the work is built up of layers which recall the photographic technique of double exposure and the multiple viewpoints of Cubism. It is thought to have been made by combining sheets of glass with postcards and reproductions of paintings sandwiched in between, with three-dimensional objects. Cowie was interested in the way a reflective surface could create an illusion of reality. He has included references to several famous classical paintings, most notably the generalised but recognisable nude of Ingres’ ‘Odalisque’. Small plaster casts appear in a number of the artist’s still lifes, recalling the Surrealist paintings of Giorgio de Chirico.

Updated before 2020

see media
  • artist:
  • title:
    Composition
  • date created:
    1947
  • materials:
    Oil on wood
  • measurements:
    46.30 x 45.50 cm
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    Bequeathed by Sir William Oliphant Hutchison 1970
  • accession number:
    GMA 1167
  • gallery:
  • subject:
  • glossary:
  • photographer:
    Antonia Reeve
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James Cowie

James Cowie