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William Roberts RA, Combat

Combat, By 1966

William Roberts RA (1895 - 1980)

RA Collection: Art

William Roberts's Diploma work depicts a group of men and of women fighting on a beach. Their angular yet solid figures are outlined in black giving a graphic quality to the painting, which belies Roberts's interest in both Cubism and poster design. A sense of dynamism is created by the foreshortening of the battling bodies and diagonal movements of their limbs and cudgels. Sand, sea and sky are flattened to form stylised horizontal bands against which the action takes place.

Although titled 'Combat', this painting can be related to works executed by Roberts on the subject of 'The Rape of the Sabines.' In 1955 he exhibited an oil painting 'The Rape of the Sabines' at the Royal Academy. In 1977 Roberts executed a study titled 'The Rape of the Sabines', which is very similar in composition to 'Combat'. In 1977 he also executed a variation of the scene, in which the Romans attempt to abduct the Sabine women on horseback .

Roberts is best known for his scenes of contemporary life and portraits, but he became interested in depicting mythological scenes from the late 1950s, with works such as 'Vengeance of Odysseus' (1975). In both his modern and mythological works he often conveyed the physical tensions between figures in conflict. His painting 'Rush Hour' (Exh. RA. 1972), shows modern-day men and women competing with limbs, umbrellas and shopping bags to squeeze onto a London bus.

Although Roberts did address the subject of the Sabine Women as early as 1955, his Diploma work may have been influenced in part by Pablo Picasso's 'The Rape of the Sabine Women' painted 1962-1963 (Oil on canvas; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).

Object details

William Roberts RA (1895 - 1980)
By 1966
Object type
Copyright owner
Oil on canvas

601 mm x 762 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Diploma Work given by William Roberts RA accepted 1966
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