Preparatory works for this painting, with marginalia calculations, give
an insight into Moss’s method and temperament. A design, once resolved
on paper, was transferred to the canvas using precisely ruled pencil lines;
the colours were laid down in turn, white last. A close examination of
the painting’s surface indicates masking; the brush marks are consistently
horizontal, even for the vertical forms. The rectangles are perfectly clean, butting up against each other like tiles.
This British artist has, in recent years, been rediscovered’ with a
touring Tate display (2013‚ 2015) and a retrospective at Museum Haus
Konstruktiv in Zürich (2017). Moss’s works, held in their respective
collections, were on the walls at the Stedelijk, Amsterdam, and the
Gemeentemuseum in the Hague as part of the 100 years of De Stijl
celebrations across the Netherlands. She was up at Tate Britain for Queer
British Art, and Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired by her Writings at
Tate St Ives, a queer context and a feminist one respectively. Inclusion
of Moss in the remit of Fifty Works by Fifty British Women Artists is
potentially problematic (as is use of a feminine pronoun) in the fast developing
context of identity politics and transgender discourse.
Moss arrived in Paris from London in 1927, long-established in
the persona and masculine dress of Marlow’ but unformed as an artist;
she was greatly moved by seeing the work of Mondrian. She attended
the Académie Moderne and, under Léger, became a non-figurative artist.
In 1931, her paintings featuring closely parallel lines, such as those seen
in this work, brought her to the attention of Mondrian, who saw that
she was augmenting his language of neoplasticisme. He subsequently
experimented with the double-line’ himself. On Mondrian’s
recommendation, Moss was invited to join the association Abstraction-
Création as a founder member alongside Vantongerloo, van Doesburg
Commentary by Lucy Howarth. Howarth completed her PhD on Marlow Moss at the University of Plymouth in 2008, and,
after teaching at UK universities, a spell in the Tate Research Department and curating internationally,
currently runs Liddicoat & Goldhill Project Space, a contemporary art gallery in Margate.