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On display on Level 2


France 1886 – 1966

  • London and Paris 1935-39 New York 1939-55

Nacres [Mother of pearl] c.1926 Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Primary Insc: signed l.l., oil, "ozenfant", not dated
Dimensions: 130.0 h x 97.4 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1976
Accession No: NGA 76.66
Image rights: © Amédée Ozenfant/ADAGP. Licensed by Viscopy
  • the artist;
  • to Galerie Katia Granoff, Paris, the artist's dealer, c.1962;
  • from whom bought by the Australian National Gallery, February 1976

Mother of pearl is one of several paintings that share the same composition, with only minor variations in colour and size to distinguish them. Ozenfant repeated this composition, as he did several others, in the belief that the ideal lay through a process of pictorial refinement for which the subject was but a pretext. The muted, pearly colours of Mother of pearl are also characteristic of this quest for refinement and elegance.

There are at least four versions of Mother of pearl. One, in a Swiss private collection, measuring 100.0 x 81.0 cm and dated 1923, is probably the earliest work in the series.1 Nacres, in the collection of the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, also measuring 100.0 x 81.0 cm, and the Australian National Gallery's painting, are undated but were probably completed between 1925 and 1926. A further work in the series is held in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and was painted by Ozenfant at the end of his career, in 1961. In addition there is a work in the Hôtel Monte Verita, Ascona, also titled Nacres 1922-29 and sharing the same composition, though in this case the central image of jugs, bottles and glasses extends to the edges of the painting rather than being grouped in the centre as in the other Nacres paintings.

Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.158.

  1. See François Ducros, 'Amédée Ozenfant', Saint-Quentin: Musée Antigone Lécuyer, 1985 (exhibition catalogue), cat. no. 48, p.96 (ill.).

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra