50.8 x 68.6 cm
As with Picasso, followed by many British artists, there was a longing for a sense of order in art following the First World War. However, Armstrong had been focused on subjects ‘sanctified by age’ (the Artist in his statement in the Unit One book, 1934) from early in his career; since studying Classics at St Paul’s School, the artist had had a fascination with Greco-Roman history. He brings a freshness to the still life by transforming the vase into a somewhat surreal subject, abstracting reality with his brushstroke, and soon after this was painted, he turned to more decidedly surreal scenes.
A successful commercial artist, by the end of the ‘30s Armstrong had produced major commissions for Shell, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Samuel Courtauld, London Films, Hogarth Press, Clarice Cliff and various hotels, though this work is closely related to the poster ‘Pheidippides’, from a series commissioned by the General Post Office. A precursor to the School Prints, the lithographic editions was disseminated to state schools to educate and raise the profile of the Postal Service and its history. Julian Trevelyan, in his memoir Indigo Days (1957), referred to Armstrong as ‘[one of] the principal “stars” of the thirties.’
Jonathan Clark Fine Art, London, from where acquired