Despite being influenced by Surrealism (haven’t we all?) I have viewed it with a certain amount of suspicion due to its overt misogyny – fortunately the last few years have more fully revealed the creative impact of women in the movement. One of these was Eileen Agar, whose exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery gives an overview of her work encompassing painting, collage, mixed media, photography and sculpture.
The self-portrait above is optimistic and hopeful for the future and encapsulates her enthusiasm and curiosity for the world.
The Autobiography of an Embryo (1933-34) is described by Agar as “a celebration of life, not only a single one, but life in general on this particular and moving planet”. Many of the tropes she referred to throughout her career are seen in this work.
Although friends with Picasso she was wary of being overwhelmed by his influence. Her 1939 painting of him as muse flips the habitual gendering in an affectionate and humorous portrait.
More surrealism in this photo, which I saw as a row of pressed sharks but is apparently of coffin lids. It just goes to show…