The Deluge, 1920
Framed (ref: 126)
Oil on canvas, 60 x 70 in. (152.4 x 177.8 cm.)
Provenance: Pierre Le-Tan, Paris; private collection, Paris
Exhibited: London, Royal Academy, February 1921
Literature: Illustrated London News, 'The Rome Art Scholarships: Exhibits at Burlington House', vol. 158, p. 194, Feb 1921
The four finalists of the 1920 Rome Scholarship were all Slade students: Winifred Knights, James Wilkie, Leon Underwood and Arthur Outlaw. To compete for the Scholarship they were asked to paint a scene of the Deluge, in oil or tempera, 6 x 5 ft, which was to be completed in a period of eight weeks (commencing 5th July). The panel of ten judges included Clausen, Sargent, Steer, and D. Y. Cameron.
Winifred Knights' remarkable prize-winning painting is now in the Tate. Outlaw's entry has only recently been rediscovered. The entries by Wilkie and Underwood remain untraced, though are known from the Illustrated London News article in which all four entries were reproduced. Outlaw's composition is distinguished above all by the modernism of the ark, placed dramatically at the top of the composition, leaving the centre of the canvas empty. Around this void the dramatic narrative of the Flood can be seen unfolding: the building of the ark is contrasted with the sins of the world that led to the Flood. The nude figure to the right symbolises sin, whilst the Deluge sweeps in from the brooding sky on the left.
During his time at the Slade, Outlaw won prizes in both head and figure painting. He was influenced by the Italian Quattrocento and the remarkable generation of students that immediately preceded him at the Slade: painters such as Currie, Spencer, Allinson and Gertler.
We are grateful to Emma Chambers, Alistair Hicks, Alan Powers and Peyton Skipwith for assistance.