Museum Collections

The Mirror

  • Acrylic on canvas
  • 152 x 134.5 cms
  • 1974

The Mirror


The Ingram Collection of Modern and Contemporary British Art

he Mirror (1974) was produced during Derrick Greaves’s exploration of eroticism during the 1970s and 1980s. However, this work is a precursor to the overt eroticism as seen in later works of the 1990s and shows a more reserved and self-conscious female figure. It seems that in this painting the sexual implications of eroticism evade the apprehensive individual as she stands distractedly playing with her fingers. The form and line seems to allude to the classical, although there is not the same poised line and regal composure as seen in other classically influenced works. In contrast, the use of line in this painting has more naturalistic contours which work to humanise the figure in the painting as she self-consciously assesses herself in the mirror. 

The compositional style of this painting, which is based on the manipulation and play of space and line, had been preceded by critical acclaim from Bryan Robertson, director of the Whitechapel Gallery from 1952 to 1968, who proclaimed that:

 ‘…the artist has explored for years the idea of a dialogue between occupied and vacant space, between an image and its reflection, or an image reduced to an emblem balanced or disrupted by a complementary form. The paintings have absolute command over their selected terms of reference: the colour is weightless and strong, the use of line increasingly sharp and telling … Greaves is an abstract-symbolist’.

Bryan Robertson, ‘Upstream’, Spectator, 25 October 1969

The Mirror (1974) is an explicit and aesthetically literal example of this concept of a dialogue between image and reflection.

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