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Twentieth Century British Art News

22 January 2019
Antiques Trade Gazette

Mary Adshead (1904-1995), Portrait of Marjorie Gertler, 1931.

Mary Adshead (1904-1995), Portrait of Marjorie Gertler, 1931.


By Frances Allitt

When I was putting this exhibition together, a lot of people thought I would not be able to find 50 different women British artists to show. In the end, I could have shown 500,” says Sacha Llewellyn of 20th century British art specialist Liss Llewellyn.

She is the mind behind Fifty Works by Fifty British Women Artists 1900-1950, now on at The Ambulatory in London’s Mercers’ Company.

Running until March 23, it is designed as a “corrective” to the typically male-dominated art historical narrative and includes paintings, sculptures and prints by artists from the well-known (such as Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Winifred Nicholson) to the under-represented or almost forgotten.

Each work is accompanied by commentary from a different contemporary mind such as Lara Wardle of the Jerwood Collection, former lawyer and crime author Frances Fyfield, dealer Rupert Maas and actor Griff Rhys Jones, writing on one piece lent from his private collection.

Half of the remarks were written by men, in an attempt to have a more gender-balanced view. All help to give a slightly different perspective on these artworks, their subjects and their creators, famous or obscure.

“It’s not just about rounding up lost heroines,” Llewellyn says. “It’s about rewriting their stories.” Following the show, a selection of the works will be on offer – the dealership’s standard, if unusual, model. Those interested in purchasing pieces in the collection can visit the Liss Llewellyn website to see a complete list.

Many of the works address the turbulent times of those 50 years, sometimes indirectly.

Portrait of a Jewish Refugee (c. 1939) by Phoebe Willetts-Dickinson (1917-78), for example, is part of her effort to draw attention to the situation of German Jews in the late 1930s. It shows a solitary figure squeezed onto the edge of a stage. Willett-Dickinson was a pacifist, a Deacon in the Church of England and a social justice campaigner who eventually spent six months in jail for civil disobedience. Isobel Atterbury Heath (1908-89), on the other hand, worked as an illustrator for the Ministry of Information. Her oil of a Royal Navy Mine Sweeper in Dry Dock (c. 1940) records an accomplishment in British military technology. Elsewhere there is a lithograph of an Italian Convoy by First World War artist Olive Mudie-Cooke and a portrait of Captain Pauline Gower of the Women’s Air Transport Auxiliary (c. 1940) by Ethel Gabain. “So many of these women were involved in the issues of war in their art, even when they weren’t official war artists,” Llewellyn says. The wartime picture Necessary Bandages (c. 1942) by British surrealist Emmy Bridgewater (1906-99), for instance, shows the artist heavily bandaged after being wounded apparently in love rather that battle.

A study by Mutual Art earlier this year suggested that there is an enduring imbalance in the way that male and female artists are seen by the market. It reported that, of the top 100 artists whose works reached the highest amounts at auction in 2017, only 13 were women (Yayoi Kusama, Louise Bourgeois and Joan Mitchell topped that chart).

But in 2018, a year marked by the centenary of female suffrage in the UK as well as the #MeToo movement, Llewellyn says that there is a “fashion” for celebrating the works of female artists.

Indeed, there have been a number of shows featuring female artists at major institutions this year: Frida Kahlo at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tacita Dean at the Royal Academy of Arts, and Modern Couples, which showcased a series of husband-and-wife artistic pairings, at the Barbican. And, Llewellyn says, “when you’re trying to stage an exhibition, calling attention to an unknown woman is a lot easier than an unknown man”.

However, it is women associated with groups such as the Surrealists or the Vorticists, she adds, who are the most straightforward to introduce. Those working alone, or even those creating pioneering works, are the ones who tend to get lost. These often need the work of a dealer or researcher to return to the fore.

For buyers, the show is a chance to get to know the women making art in the first half of the 20th century, to recognise where they fit in a larger story and either add works to a collection or find new names to follow on the market.

(This article appeared in The Antiques Trade Gazette on December 15, 2018)

10 January 2019
Antiques Trade Gazette

50/50: Fifty Works by Fifty British Women Artists 1900-1950

The opening of Liss Llewellyn’s exhibition “50/50: Fifty Works by Fifty British Women Artists 1900-1950” (it continues until Marcy 23 at London Mercers’ Company). The dealership will continue to host such shows and has moved some of its stock, priced at under £2000, to a new website it has launched, Modern British Art Gallery.


By Frances Allitt

Modern British art specialist Liss Llewellyn has divided its business across two buying platforms to help customers search for and find pictures from its 4000 items of stock more easily.

Previously all the stock was offered via the original Liss Llewellyn platform. After 30 years, however, “there is just so much to look at”, Paul Liss told ATG. “Dividing our stock across two different sites with price being the deciding factor seemed a logical way of tackling the issue.”

The new site, Modern British Art Gallery (modernbritishartgallery.com), focuses on artworks priced at £2000 or less and targets first-time buyers and younger collectors and will make more use of social media for promotion. Liss Llewellyn (lissllewellyn.com), the original site, remains the platform through which the business develops its programme of publications and exhibitions.

Liss adds: “We have always believed that there is surprisingly little correlation in the art market between aesthetic and commercial value. Just because the Modern British Art Gallery site hosts work that is more affordable, that is not to say that the quality of what is on offer is less – hence the tag-line that we are offering museum-quality work for under £2000. We recently sold a picture to a museum for £90.”

Liss Llewellyn offers a total of 917 pictures by 386 artists and a further 1107 pictures by 391 artists are available from Modern British Art Gallery.

Though Liss plans to move the platforms in different directions over time, they remain connected. A further 2000 pictures are listed across the two sites as either having been sold or as pictures that will be available for sale after planned exhibitions.

6 December 2018
INTERIORS January 2019 issue

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004), Studio Interior (Red Stool, Studio), 1945

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004), Studio Interior (Red Stool, Studio), 1945.
Collection and Copyright: The Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Trust



By Muriel Zagha

‘Pure’, ‘bewitching’, ‘naive’: it was not unusual for British women’s artworks in the 20th century to be characterised by male critics in terms of bon sauvage stereotypes, suggestive of decorativeness and, ultimately, inconsequentiality. Conversely, the very worst that could be said of a woman’s art was that it was masculine. One way women could subvert gender categorisation was by embracing abstraction; another was by adopting ambiguous names (Marjorie Moss became Marlow Moss, Dora Carrington shed the `Dora’). Their work neglected, many of these artists fell into obscurity. The fruit of a collaboration between the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery in Leeds and curator Sacha Llewellyn of Liss Llewellyn, specialists in the unsung heroines and heroes of British art, this exhibition seeks to redress the balance - not only in a spirit of feminist archaeology, but also to bring more good art to light. In existential terms the artists selected had much in common. There was the universal yearning, often frustrated, to be able to paint without interruption in a room of one’s own’. There was the struggle between domesticity and creativity illustrated in such works as Cecile Walton’s ironically titled Romance (1920), which shows the artist reclining on a chaise-longue like Manet’s Olympia, but holding a baby and with her space invaded with domestic obligations, or in Hilda Fearon’s Studio Interior (1914), where a mother sits in her makeshift studio with her two young daughters, a blank canvas abandoned on its easel next to an unmade bed. As expressions of creativity, however, what each work reveals is glorious idiosyncrasy, from Daisy Borne’s monumental marble sculpture Madonna of the Adoring Angels (1939), with its Jazz Age putti, to Eileen Agar’s small, colourful and complex The Happy Breakfast (1937), a painting that mimics the formal procedures of collage; from British Abstraction pioneer Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s jubilant Studio Interior (Red Stool, Studio) (1945), which depicts the artist’s first studio in St Ives, pregnant with creative potential and anticipation, to works that transcend the wartime agenda that informed them, such as Ethel Leontine Gabain’s Women’s Work in the War (other than the Services) c1940, a lithograph of pilot Captain Pauline Gower at once energetic and melancholy. Highly illuminating are the commentaries, each by a scholar, curator or member of the artist’s family, that accompany the works. Prudence Bliss, daughter of Phyllis Dodd, and the model for Prudence on Pegasus (1937 -38), remembers the artist’s indignation when her husband, artist Douglas Percy Bliss, ‘lent a hand’ by adding to the background while she was in the kitchen. Of Winifred Knights’s dreamlike, luminous landscape Edge of Abruzzi; Boat with Three People on a Lake (1924-30), her son John Monnington writes movingly: ‘When I was a schoolboy I was slightly aware of there being something exceptional about my mother, but I was totally ignorant of her true abilities.’ This is a fascinating show, full of revelations and new lines of enquiry.

FIFTY WORKS BY FIFTY BRITISH WOMEN ARTISTS 1900-1950 runs 3 December 2018 - 23 March 2019, Mon - Fri 10-5.

Touring to the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds, 9 April - 27 July 2019.

This article appears in the January 2019 edition of The World of Interiors, copyright © THE WORLD OF INTERIORS/CONDÉ NAST PUBLICATIONS LTD.

19 November 2018
Fifty Works by Fifty British Women Artists 1900 –1950

Gladys Hynes (1888-1958), A Penny for the Guy.

Gladys Hynes (1888-1958), A Penny for the Guy.

The Ambulatory at The Mercers’ Company
6 Frederick’s Place, London, EC2R 8AB
3 December 2018 – 23 March 2019

The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds
Parkinson Building Woodhouse Lane, Leeds LS2 9JT
9 April 2019 – 27 July 2019

Curated by Sacha Llewellyn, ‘Fifty Works by Fifty British Women Artists 1900 - 1950’, will mark the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People’s Act. This will be the inaugural exhibition at the newly restored Ambulatory at the Worshipful Company of Mercers (City of London) and then travel to The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds.

Through a heterogeneous collection of painting and sculpture by fifty artists, the exhibition will pay tribute to the extraordinary cultural production of women in Britain during the first half of the twentieth century. Despite the inequality of opportunity, patronage and critical attention, many female artists skillfully navigated careers in the art world, producing powerful works that reflected their daily lives and experiences.

Including portraits and self-portraits, landscapes and cityscapes, industrial scenes and images of war, the exhibition will consider the ways in which ‘feminine’ virtues and values were shifting and contested in 20th century visual culture. Indeed, the purpose of the exhibition is not to try and impose a false homogeneity on women artists, but to explore the diverse range of traditions and styles in which they worked. By addressing the long-undervalued contributions of women to the art of 20th-Century Britain, ‘Fifty Works by Fifty British Women Artists 1900 – 1950’ will pay tribute to artists who not only created remarkable artworks but also generated a momentum towards a more egalitarian art world.

8 July 2018
Mayfair Jewellers celebrate RA250 with art collaboration

Dorothy Mahoney (1902-1984), Walled Garden Amongst Kentish Orchards, early 1950s

Dorothy Mahoney (1902-1984),
Walled Garden Amongst Kentish Orchards, early 1950s.

A Hanging Garden

The Royal Academy of Art is celebrating its 250th Anniversary and to commemorate this, Susannah Lovis Jewellers and Liss Llewellyn are collaborating upon an exhibition of their respective floral collections. This display, entitled ‘A Hanging Garden’, will showcase works by Modern British Artists alongside the Mayfair jewellers stunning collection of antique pieces. The exhibition will run from the 22nd June – 31st August 2018, and shall also work in parallel with Mathilde Nivet’s summer installation in the Burlington Arcade, based around the theme of an English garden.

The art on display will range from formal arrangements in oil through to preparatory studies for larger compositions, and will feature the work of figures such as Winifred Knights, Evelyn Dunbar, Charles Mahoney, as well as former President of the Royal Academy, Sir Thomas Monnington. From the loose, bravura application of paint through to examples of acute scientific scrutiny, this display will feature a mere sample of the great variety of style and technique that can be found within this branch of twentieth-century British art. Supporting this will be a selection of botanically inspired jewellery from throughout the ages; remarkable examples of craftsmanship that continue to stand the test of time. From a 1950s hand-crafted gold pierced openwork onyx brooch to a Victorian floral diamond necklace – the trends and styles of different eras are inherently reflected in the design of all the jewellery at Susannah Lovis.

Owner Susannah Lovis stated: “We are absolutely thrilled to be supporting Liss Llewellyn Fine Arts in this exhibition. The stunning works on display will serve as a perfect blend of modern and vintage; acting as a fine balance to our antique Jewellery collection.”

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