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Marlow Moss

Marjorie Jewel "Marlow" Moss (29 May 1889, London - 23 August 1958, Penzance) was a British Constructivist artist who worked in painting and sculpture.

Born in Kilburn, she was the daughter of Lionel Moss, a master hosier and clothier, and his wife Frannie Jacobs. Against the wishes of her family, she chose to pursue an artistic career, studying at the St John's Wood School of Art in 1916–17, then the Slade School of Fine Art. She left the latter in 1919, probably due to a mental breakdown, to live alone in Cornwall.

In 1923, inspired by a biography of Marie Curie, she was able to return to London to study in the British Museum Reading Room, then studied sculpture at the Penzance School of Art, before taking up painting and setting up a London studio in 1926. At this point in her life she permanently adopted a masculine appearance (short hair, cravat and jodhpurs) and changed her forename to Marlow.

In 1927 she visited, and later moved to, Paris where she met her lifelong partner, the Dutch writer A. H. Nijhoff (Antoinette Hendrika Nijhoff-Wind, wife of the poet Martinus Nijhoff). She was a pupil of Léger and Ozenfant at the Académie Moderne, but her style was particularly influenced by Piet Mondrian. She was also acquainted with Georges Vantongerloo and Jean Gorin. In Paris she was a founder member of the Abstraction-Création association, and exhibited with the Salon des Surindépendants.

At the beginning of World War II she left France to live near Lamorna Cove in Cornwall, studying architecture at the Penzance School of Art. For the rest of her life she lived and worked in Cornwall, frequently visiting Paris. She joined the London branch of Group Espace and had solo exhibitions at the Hanover Gallery in 1953 and 1958.

She died of cancer in 1958, and her ashes were scattered on the sea near Lamorna.

Her oeuvre spanned painting, sculpture and reliefs. Prior to World War II her main medium was paint, in which she produced highly abstract compositions simple black lines and grids akin to the Neo-Plasticism of Mondrian, whose work she highly admired (some sources suggest that Mondrian may have been influenced by her work, rather than vice versa). Later in the 1930s she moved to all-white reliefs of wood, rope, and string. Most of this pre-war work was destroyed, along with her French studio, by Luftwaffe bombing.

Post-war, her architectural studies led her to develop sculptural and relief works such as the 1956-7 Balanced Forms in Gun Metal on Cornish Granite, while she continued to paint, developing a style structurally similar but more colourful than early works.

Despite the innovative nature of her work, her early base in Paris and later reclusive lifestyle led to a low-key reputation as a British artist, and until the 1980s she was viewed as a minor Mondrian imitator. Her works are now held at the Tate and the Henry Moore Institute.







From the Henry Moore Institute website: The Henry Moore Institute is delighted to announce the recent acquisition of Spatial Construction in Steel, a work from 1956-7 by Marlow Moss (1890-1958). Moss is often overlooked in the history of 20th century British sculpture, a disregard stemming perhaps from the fact that she spent most of her career in Paris, where she formed a warm and mutually edifying friendship with Piet Mondrian. It is possibly because of this relationship with the great pioneer of neo-plasticism that Moss is so admired today in Holland. Her work is found in the permanent collections of the Kröller-Müller Museum and the Haags Gemeentemuseum in the Hague, while the provenance of the sculpture now in Leeds shows it was purchased in 1962 by Willem Sandberg, then Director of the Stedelijk Museum, during a posthumous Marlow Moss exhibition in Amsterdam. It remained with Sandberg’s family until last year.