Rijksmuseum acquires three works by Marlow Moss - FAD Magazine

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Rijksmuseum acquires three works by Marlow Moss

Marlow Moss,White and Black (No 27),1948.Oil on canvas, paint on wood.Purchased with the support of Pon and the Rijksmuseum Fonds: the Irma Theodora Fonds, the‘Vrouwenvan het Rijksmuseum’ Fonds (‘Women of the Rijksmuseum’ Fund), and a privatebenefactor
Marlow Moss, White and Black (No 27 ), 1948. Oil on canvas, paint on wood. Purchased with the support of Pon and the Rijksmuseum Fonds: the Irma Theodora Fonds, the ‘Vrouwen van het Rijksmuseum’ Fonds (‘Women of the Rijksmuseum’ Fund), and a private benefactor

The Rijksmuseum has acquired three works by Marlow Moss: the 1948 painting White and Black (No 27) and two untitled drawings made around 1940 and 1957 respectively. Moss played an important role in the development of abstract art in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. As well as being ahead of the time as an artist, Moss challenged prevailing societal attitudes around identity. The artist spent a great deal of time in the Netherlands with partner, the author A.H. ‘Netty’ Nijhoff. Piet Mondrian was a close connection, as were other artists from The Netherlands. The painting and two drawings will go on display today as part of the permanent collection of 20th-century art.

This acquisition was made possible with the financial support of Pon and the Rijksmuseum Fonds: the Irma Theodora Fonds, the ‘Vrouwen van het Rijksmuseum’ Fonds (‘Women of the Rijksmuseum’ Fund), and a private benefactor.

Original works by Marlow Moss are rare. Many have been lost, including some during an air raid in 1944. This makes it all the more remarkable that we have been able to purchase several works by the artist. Moss did not conform to mainstream ideas, either in the arts or in society at large. Moss was unquestionably a pioneer of abstract art in the first half of the 20th century.

Mels Evers, Curator of 20th-Century Art

About the artist

In 1932 Marlow Moss (London, 1889-1958) joined Abstraction-Création, an international association of artists that included Georges Vantongerloo, Auguste Herbin and Theo van Doesburg. The aim of Moss and the group was to foster the development of abstract art and increase its prominence in Europe. Moss worked as an artist in Paris and Normandy, Cornwall in England, and the Dutch village of Biggekerke. As well as drawing inspiration from the De Stijl art movement, Moss explored musical composition, choreography and mathematics.

Moss was committed to liberating perceptions of art: ‘I don’t see form. I only see space, movement and light.’ The pursuit of ever-shifting structures also manifested itself in the personal life of the artist: Moss regarded identity as a fluid concept and in the 1920s adopted a gender-neutral first name. Looking back on this period in 1955, Moss wrote: ‘I destroyed my old personality and created a new one. Identity, like everything else, isn’t fixed but rather something one constructs for oneself on a day-to-day basis. Art is as Life, forever in the state of Becoming.’

Piet Mondrian and Marlow Moss admired one another’s artistic practice. They corresponded regularly, frequently engaging in discussion and inspiring each other. In 1940, Mondrian encouraged Moss to leave England with him and move to New York. ‘You can either come with me or you can stay in England and be doomed to obscurity and failure,’ he wrote. Moss ignored his warning and remained in Lamorna in Cornwall, continuing to work and live with Netty Nijhoff.

White and Black (No 27)

White and Black (No 27) was owned for many decades by Nijhoff. The complete absence of colour distinguishes it from many other works in the artist’s oeuvre. This painting on a square canvas comprises a rhythmic arrangement of seemingly vertical and horizontal black lines. Moss encouraged viewers to see such lines as a form of notation for a musical composition. This painting is one of the only two known works from the 1940s in exclusively black and white – the other is held by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Marlow Moss,Untitled, ca. 1957.Pencil on paper.Purchased with the support of Pon
Marlow Moss, Untitled, ca. 1957. Pencil on paper. Purchased with the support of Pon
Marlow Moss, Untitled (Red, Green and White Circles), c. 1940. Pencil, ink and gouache on paper. Purchased with the support of Pon

Moss worked systematically, making numerous preparatory studies for paintings and sculptures. The drawings acquired by the Rijksmuseum offer insights into Moss’ creative process. The c. 1957 drawing, a sketch of the rear of a sculpture, testifies to the precision of Moss’s calculations. The c. 1940 drawing is a standalone work comprising three coloured circles apparently moving independently of one another – a motif that recurs in several sculptures by Moss.

The Women of the Rijksmuseum research project was launched on 8th March 2022. The aim of the project is to integrate the female narrative in the museum’s collection and displays, to offer a more complete representation of history. The project’s multidisciplinary research team identifies, investigates and presents stories about women in the collection and acquires new work.

This research project is made possible in part by CHANEL, the Susi Zijderveld Fonds, the Familie Krouwels Fonds, the Machteld Vos & Willem Sijthoff Fonds, the Heleen Dura- van Oord Fonds, the Kind Courage Monique Maarsen Fonds, the Familie Staal Fonds, the Karin van Leeuwen Fonds and the ‘Vrouwen van het Rijksmuseum’ Fonds.

Marlow Moss: forgotten art maverick- A radical lesbian who apprenticed herself to Léger and became a modernist to rival Mondrian – Marlow Moss is one of the great figures of English art. So why has no one heard of her? The Guardian



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