Exhibition, Whitechapel Gallery, 19th May – 12th December 2021
Phantoms of Surrealism
Header image: Sheila Legge as Surrealist ‘Phantom’, Trafalgar Square, London, 11th June 1936. Photograph attributed to Claude Cahun, courtesy Jersey Heritage Collections.
Performance art in public is a familiar scene nowadays with Fringe events and street theatre regularly popping up across our city centres. Perhaps not so common though in 1936, when artist Sheila Legge strolled around Trafalgar Square in a bridal gown, her head covered in red roses. Catching the eye of passers-by and the press, her tribute to Dali’s Women with the Head of Roses created just the buzz needed to launch the London International Surrealist Exhibition, held at the New Burlington Galleries in Mayfair.
And now some 85 years later, she is one of eleven pioneering women celebrated in a new exhibition at Whitechapel Gallery, featuring a wealth of talented Surrealist artists from the fields of painting, collage, sculpture, photography, fashion and poetry.
Left: Max Ernst, poster for International Surrealist Exhibition,
Burlington Galleries, London, 1936.
Colour Lithograph, The Murray Family Collection, UK & USA.
Right: Corella Hughes, scale model of the London International Surrealist Exhibition 1936 (detail). 2021 © Corella Hughes.
After a year of lockdown it’s heartening to see galleries preparing to open up again, and surely a trip down the road of escapism is just what we need right now. This exhibition is set to be a pleasure and an education at the same time. Take a look through the visitor information for this and other events on the gallery’s website, details below.
Elizabeth Andrew – Swan, undated lead.
© The artist’s estate, Towner, Eastbourne.
Extract from press release
Whitechapel Gallery’s new archive exhibition, Phantoms of Surrealism, brings together artworks, photographic scrapbooks, press cuttings and original correspondence from the London International Surrealist Exhibition (1936), including a new scale model. Coinciding with Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy, the show reveals the pivotal role of women as artists, behind-the-scenes organisers, editors and animators of the Surrealist movement in Britain.
The exhibition features eleven artists including Ruth Adams (1893–1949), Eileen Agar (1899–1991), Elizabeth Andrews (1882–1977), Diana Brinton Lee (d. 1982), Claude Cahun (1894–1954), Ithell Colquhoun (1906–1988), Sheila Legge, Grace Pailthorpe (1883–1971), Elizabeth Raikes (1907–1942), Edith Rimmington (1902–1986) and Stella Snead (1910–2006).
Also presented are artworks from an anti-war exhibition staged at Whitechapel Gallery in 1939 by The Artists’ International Association, dedicated to the ‘Unity of Artists for Peace, Democracy and Cultural Development’. The exhibition is co-curated by Nayia Yiakoumaki, Curator: Archive Gallery and Head of Curatorial Studies, Whitechapel Gallery and Cameron Foote, Assistant Curator, Whitechapel Gallery.
Grace Pailthorpe – Sea Urchin/The Escaped Prisoner,
7 May 1938, water on colourboard. Private collection.
Phantoms of Surrealism runs from 19th May – 12th December 2021
Whitechapel Gallery, 77 – 82 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX
Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm. Free entry to this exhibition, other displays may be paid entry, booking is required for either.
All images and exhibition details are reproduced with permission from Whitechapel Gallery and are copyrighted as listed.
Intro by Siobhan
27th April 2021