Passing in the Night

Margaret Mellis


In the late 1970s, Margaret Mellis, having previously developed an abstraction in her painting, began to create the works synonymous with her career: driftwood constructions. These colourful assemblages that become wall-hanging sculptures, first suggested formations fit for artworks whilst stacked up in the corner of Mellis’ studio. Nicknamed her ‘wood pile’, the driftwoof was collected by the artist and her friends  along the beach near her home in Suffolk, chosen for their interesting shape, colour and texture, perhaps with additional features or traces of text, remnants of their original use.

  • Artist

    Margaret Mellis

  • Date


  • Medium

    Found painted wood

  • Object number


  • Dimensions unframed

    23 × 35 × 4.5 cm

  • Marks

    Signed and dated verso

  • Copyright

    Ⓒ Margaret Mellis Estate courtesy of The Redfern Estate


Margaret Mellis, 1914-2009

Born in China, Mellis was taken to her parent' native Scotland at the age of one. She was a student at Edinburgh College of Art from 1929 to 1933, when a travelling Scholarship allowed her to study under André Lhote in Paris and to travel in Spain and Italy. Returning to the college, she had a Fellowship from 1935 to 1937. She moved to London in 1938 and married the painter and writer Adrian Stokes; after settling in Cornwall in 1939 they became central figures in the St Ives group. Mellis began to work in a Constructivist manner, inspired by her neighbour Naum Gabo. After her divorce with Stokes, she lived in France from 1948-50, having remarried, and returned to England in 1950, living in Suffolk.