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Creator:
Duncan Grant, 1885–1978, British
Title:

In Memoriam: Rupert Brooke

Date:
1915
Medium:
Oil and collage on panel
Dimensions:
21 9/16 x 11 3/4 inches (54.8 x 29.8 cm) and 23 × 13 1/2 × 1 1/2 inches (58.4 × 34.3 × 3.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
Copyright Status:
© Estate of the Artist
Accession Number:
B1985.3.3
Classification:
Paintings
Collection:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
abstract art | memorial | poet | rectangles | representation | world war | World War, 1914-1918
Associated People:
Brooke, Rupert Chawner (1887–1915), poet
Access:
Not on view
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:5054
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The young poet Rupert Brooke, famed for his idealistic war sonnets, died at sea in April 1915 on his way to participate in the disastrous British assault on Gallipoli during the First World War. His death sent shockwaves through the Bloomsbury Group. "It is too horrible," wrote Duncan Grant, who had known Brooke since their school days: "May no other generation live under the cloud we have to live under." Grant, a pacifist, made this painting as an act of homage. It neither glorifies Brooke’s death nor overtly explores his remarkable life but adopts instead the colorful abstract style with which Grant was experimenting during this period. A piece of silver foil was originally attached to the bottom of the painting, hinting at Grant’s fondness for cubist collages. The arched black structure at the center of the work, meanwhile, is reminiscent of a Gothic funerary monument and suggests the search for a commemorative mode suitable for modern abstract art. Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2020



The young poet Rupert Brooke, famed for his idealistic war sonnets, died at sea in April 1915 on his way to participate in the disastrous British assault on Gallipoli during the First World War. His death sent shockwaves through the Bloomsbury Group. “It is too horrible,” wrote Duncan Grant, who had known Brooke since their school days: “May no other generation live under the cloud we have to live under.” Grant, a pacifist, made this painting as an act of homage. It neither glorifies Brooke’s death nor overtly explores his remarkable life but adopts instead the colorful abstract style with which Grant was experimenting during this period. A piece of silver foil was originally attached to the bottom of the painting, hinting at Grant’s fondness for cubist collages. The arched black structure at the center of the work, meanwhile, is reminiscent of a Gothic funerary monument and suggests the search for a commemorative mode suitable for modern abstract art.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016



Rupert Brooke, the poet and idol of his generation, died of septicemia on April 23, 1915, on his way to fight at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles, Winston Churchill's disastrously ill-conceived campaign which was intended to seize Constantinople and cut off the supply of oil to the Germans, but which was successfully resisted by the Turks. Brooke was buried at night in an olive grove on the island of Skyros. A month later his younger brother Alfred was killed on the western front in France. Duncan Grant had known both since childhood, and the double death within the same family brought home to the painter the appalling consequences of the Great War even though-and perhaps especially because-he remained a committed pacifist, and conscientious objector.



Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2008



Grant's old school friend Rupert Brooke died on 23 April, 1915. His response to Brooke's death was to paint this abstract homage to the poet. Others in the Bloomsbury group, of which Grant was a member, had no patience for the myth-making mourners who arose from every side to bestow on Brooke the status of a national martyr. Vanessa Bell wrote to Clive Bell: 'I think it's queer how all these people who couldn't stand him alive are driven to talking about the waste and meaningless of life by Rupert's death,' confessing her inability to 'see a great deal beyond his looks to regret.'

Gallery label for Doomed Youth The Poetry and the Pity of World War I (Yale Center for British Art, 1999-06-22 - 1999-09-26)
Rupert Brooke, the poet and idol of his generation, died of septicemia on April 23, 1915, on his way to Gallipoli. He was buried at night in an olive grove on the island of Skyros. A month later his younger brother Alfred was killed in France. Duncan Grant had known both since childhood, and the double death within the same family brought the terrible effects of the war home to the painter, a committed pacifist and conscientious objector.
Brooke's death took on a national significance. Famous for his beauty as well as his poetry, he had caught the English imagination with a group of sonnets written in 1914 just after the outbreak of World War One. They captured the last moment of heroic idealism before the annihilation of almost an entire generation on the Western Front:
Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping.(1)
Brooke was twenty-seven when he died, and from the moment of his death he became a symbolic figure of the young and gallant poet and officer struck down in his prime.
Grant gave the memorial tribute to the poet and his brother the form of an abstract painting, as though creating an icon. He sought an image which would transcend the immediate sense of grief and loss and raise itself above the outpouring of sentimental tributes that followed on Brooke's death. Inevitably the image reminds the viewer of a glowing chapel, with the dominating outline of a steeply pitched Gothic roof, against which the bands and blocks of color play. The impersonal qualities of the work make it all the more moving, attempting to give lasting form to personal tragedy.
Both Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell painted a small group of forward-looking abstract paintings around 1913-14 as a result of their participation in the Omega Workshop initiated by Roger Fry in April 1913. The abstract paintings of Grant and Bell follow closely on their designs for the Workshop and remain some of their most brilliant and original work.
What makes In Memoriam: Rupert Brooke so exceptional is that it was the only abstract painting by Grant which carried a specifically symbolic and expressive meaning. Remarkably, the painting was not exhibited for sixty years and remained in the artist's studio until 1975. Its abstract form was the perfect vehicle to assimilate his feelings and attitude towards the poet, for Brooke had an uneasy relationship with the Bloomsbury group. His increasingly tempestuous and temperamental relationships with women, particularly Ka Cox, a friend and intimate of Bloomsbury, alternatively adulating and castigating, led to something of an estrangement and even hostility between Brooke and Bloomsbury at the time of his death. Indeed, Vanessa Bell wrote rather callously to Clive Bell:
I think it's queer how all these people who couldn't stand him alive are driven to talking about the waste and meaninglessness of life by Rupert's death…It's not the first time that a young person has died. He would have been a great popular success and enjoyed himself very much but I can't say I see a great deal beyond his looks."(2)
Duncan Grant, always of a generous spirit, painted In Memoriam as a dona nobis pacem for his estranged but beautiful and gifted friend.

(1) Rupert Brooke, "Peace", lines 1-4
(2) Shone, 138
Patrick McCaughey

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, pp. 171, 186, no. 77

Inventing Abstraction (The Museum of Modern Art, 2012-12-23 - 2013-04-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

A Room of Their Own - The Artists of Bloomsbury in American Collections (Palmer Museum of Art, 2010-07-06 - 2010-09-26) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

A Room of Their Own - The Artists of Bloomsbury in American Collections (Smith College Museum of Art, 2010-04-01 - 2010-06-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

A Room of Their Own - The Artists of Bloomsbury in American Collections (Block Museum of Art, 2010-01-15 - 2010-03-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

A Room of Their Own - The Artists of Bloomsbury in American Collections (Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, 2009-07-18 - 2009-10-18) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

A Room of Their Own - The Artists of Bloomsbury in American Collections (Nasher Museum of Art, 2008-12-18 - 2009-04-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Revisiting Traditions [BAC 20th century painting & sculpture] (Yale Center for British Art, 2002-04-30 - 2005-05-18) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Art of Bloomsbury : Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant (Yale Center for British Art, 2000-05-20 - 2000-09-03) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Art of Bloomsbury : Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant (Tate Britain, 1999-11-04 - 2000-01-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Doomed Youth The Poetry and the Pity of World War I (Yale Center for British Art, 1999-06-22 - 1999-09-26) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Art of Bloomsbury : Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant (The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 1999-02-26 - 2000-04-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of South Australia, 1998-09-16 - 1998-11-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Queensland Art Gallery, 1998-07-15 - 1998-09-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1998-05-01 - 1998-07-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977-1986, Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1986, p. 14, no. 24, N590.2 A7 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Richard Cork, A bitter truth, avant-garde art and the Great War , Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1994, p. 79, N9150 C67 1994 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, A Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 106-107, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Leah Dickerman, Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1925, how a radical idea changed modern art , The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012, pp. 183, 187, no. 175, N6494.A2 D53 2012 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Diane Dillon, Looking and Difference in the Abstract Portraits of Charles Demuth and Duncan Grant, The Yale Journal of Criticism, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1998, pp. 39-51, PN80 Y35 (SML) Also available online (Orbis) [ORBIS]

Duncan Grant, a 90th birthday exhibition of paintings , Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, 1975, p. 5, NJ18 G74 A12 1975 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Elisabeth Fairman, Doomed youth, the poetry and the pity of the First World War : an exhibition organized by Elisabeth Fairman. , Yale Center for British Art, [New Haven, 1999, p. 12, NC1849 W27 F25 1999 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Gretchen Gerzina, A room of their own : the Bloomsbury artists in American collections, , Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY, 2008, p. 176, fig. 70, ND468.5.B55 R66 2008 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, pp. 171, 186, no. 77, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 1, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA) [YCBA]

Christopher Reed, Bloomsbury rooms, modernism, subculture, and domesticity , Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 2004, pp. 154-55, NX543 R44 2004 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Duncan Robinson, Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977 - 1986, , Burlington Magazine, vol. 128, October 1986, p. 14, no. 24, N1 B87 128:3 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Richard Shone, Bloomsbury portraits, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, and their circle , Phaidon, Oxford, 1993, pp. 138-44, ND 468 S56 1993 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Richard Shone, The art of Bloomsbury, Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant , Tate Publishing, London, 1999, p. 152, fig. 103, ND468.5 B55 S56 1999 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Richard Shone, The Charleston artists, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and their friends , The Charleston Trust, [London ?], 1984, NJ18 B3907 S55 (YCBA) [YCBA]

The Omega Workshops, alliance and enmity in English art 1911-1920. , Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, 1984, no. 69, NK942 O45 O45 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Douglas Blair Turnbaugh, Duncan Grant and the Bloomsbury Group, L. Stuart, Secaucus, N.J., 1987, p. 56, pl. 24, NJ18 G74 T87 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Simon Watney, English post-impressionism, Studio Vista, London [Westfield, N.J.?], 1980, p. 98, ND468.5 P6 W38 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Simon Watney, The art of Duncan Grant, Murray, London, 1990, p. 42, NJ18 G74 W27 1990 (YCBA) [YCBA]


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