This work shares its title with that of the acclaimed series from which it comes. As Elizabeth Cumming has explained "the edginess of many depictions of nude women had been a trait of Robin's art since the mid-1960s, becoming more visible in the Women Observed series (and its counterpart Men Observed) of the 1970s. Gender and sexuality, the rawness of the primitive in both mankind and the animal kingdom, were subjects which he worked and reworked with devotion." (Elizabeth Cumming, Robin Philipson, Bristol 2018, p. 126).
Painted on a dramatic scale, Women Observed is a richly observed, sensually charged two-part image, containing an enigmatic narrative set within tightly-defined interior spaces. The blunt, upfront division of the canvas establishes a stage-like scene. The relationship between the women depicted is unclear; both are absorbed in their activities and neither acknowledges the other, nor the viewer. Philipson's mastery of painting in oils is clear in the variety of brushstrokes, intermingling of colours and multiple approaches to describing form which are used.
Philipson's first biographer, W. Gordon Smith, wrote of the artist's imagery of nude women: "These naked or partially draped figures - faceless, apparently loitering with intent, often diffused in a blush of pigment...[are]...sometimes the tantalising subect of the painting or merely hovering on its peripheries...Demure on a chaise-longue or brazenly posturing, ambiguously propositioning or classically aloof, they might be playing out the age-old conundrum of the madonna-whore - seen by some as Delaxcroix odalisques, by others as shameless floosies." (W. Gordon Smith, Philipson: A Biography of Robin Philipson, Edinburgh 1995, p. 89)
Related works are held in numerous public collections, including those the National Galleries of Scotland, Fitzwilliam Museum and Courtauld Institute of Art.
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