Modern & Contemporary Art

specialises in framed modern and contemporary art by 20th century artists

Victorian Women Artists

PAMELA NUNN has produced a substantial and well-researched contribution to the growing body of feminist knowledge about the achievements of 19th-century women. The book centres on the early Victorian period 1840-1880; the end of the century is dealt with only briefly at the end of the book. As well as spelling out key issues and ideas of the period about women as artists, the book contains some valuable new research into the Society of Female Artists and the Old and the New Watercolour Societies, and some useful statistics about the numbers of women exhibitors.

Five case studies of individual women artists form the focus of the book. The women selected are designed to represent women’s diverse aspirations to be an artist within the male-dominated Victorian culture and society. As Nunn herself writes (p.130): ‘Joanna Boyce wanted to be a radical woman artist, Rosa Brett wanted to be a Pre-Raphaelite, Henrietta Ward wanted to be an accepted woman artist, Emma Brownlow wanted to make a living, Lady Waterford just wanted to make art’.

Nunn sketches a context for such positions, primarily in terms of the Victorian notions of ‘femininity’ expected of the middle-class women. Their aspirations to be an artist–on whatever terms–is conceived as a transgression of these social norms, rather than a negotiation, during a period when the very notions under discussion were being consolidated, as bourgeois society matured. The reclamation of these women’s lives, both the professional and the amateur, the ‘notable’, average and the forgotten, is the main purpose of the book. The argument is conceived in terms of women overcoming the obstacles they faced from their families; in obtaining education and exhibiting space; and, in being able to support themselves and make art. Thus, Nunn spells out both the negative and positive implications of the artistic family in which many women artists were given both support and encouragement yet at the same time, through the constant comparison with their male relatives, were rendered as ‘lesser lights’ to them by critics and historians.

She points out how the struggles in education, particularly study of the nude, became the basis for feminist agitation for skill and training for women artists and for better exhibition spaces.

Only one of the women discussed, Rosa Brett, remained single, and the thesis is put forward, though it is unsubstantiated, that single women had long and continuous careers, rather than intermittent or faltering ones, like married women, because of the social expectations for wives and mothers (even when married to a male artist). That social norms were transgressed because women artists tried to, expected to, or did earn money from their work, is frequently raised, particularly in relation to the way financial gain was perceived as the rough and ready test of distinction between the amateur and the professional. Nunn notes that the ‘make do and mend’ attitude of the Victorians to middle-class women only earning a living when faced with necessity (as widows or spinsters) doomed women artists to amateurism.

However, and this is what generalises the argument, this is not discussed either in relation to the growing obsession of the Victorians with the numbers of single middle-class women, or the campaigns for the Married Women’s Property Acts in the 1870s and 1880s, whereby women fought to regain control of their own property and income lost to their husbands on marriage.

Throughout the book, the increasingly organised and campaigning women’s movement remains in the background, and such examples as the women artists in the Langham Place group, or the work of women for other women remains, for the most part, undiscussed. Women artists remain within male-defined terms, as a ‘relative creature’. And, in the extracts from their letters, diaries, and journals, where their voice does break through, it is discussed only as an individual experience within a more general term like the domestic, or childhood experience.

This concentration on individual women, coupled with the enclosure of the book in the more traditional terms of art history/biography serves to isolate each example from the others. What is rendered absent, though suggested in many other works on 19th-century women, is the relationship of women to each other as mothers to daughters; or women as teachers of other women; or within a network of female friends.

More explicit, however, in accounting for the neglect of women artists are the developing notions of difference and originality for the male romantic Bohemian artist in such writers as George Moore and Frith who sought serious discussion ‘away from the ladies’ and espoused only ‘friendliness’ to women artists’ activities. Although the notions of separate spheres, the ‘feminine stereotype’ and concepts of femininity are all discussed they remain implicit within the book because its base is a pioneering thesis. Perhaps this also explains the total absence of contemporary feminist research (i.e. that which was published after 1980). However, together with her other work ‘Canvassing’ (Camden Press), these two books offer us much interesting, accessible, and valuable material about Victorian women artists, making visible to a wider audience their lives and work.


Published by Delores Jackson, on September 20th, 2014 at 7:03 am. Filled under: BooksNo Comments

Julie van Duren

TO SOMEONE like myself, who never met Julie Van Duren, the details of her life strike you with their tragedy. She died on 6 October 1981, aged 44. Her husband Geoff had died only six years earlier in a canoeing accident, and it seems that she never really recovered from that shocking loss, despite the words of hope in some of her later letters. The main source of information on Julie’s life is a booklet published as part of a memorial held in 1982. I include here extracts from her writings and some poems. I want Julie’s own special voice to come through to you in the same way it did to me.

Julie was a sculptor. In her late twenties she set up a foundry with her husband in Strood in Kent and learnt metal casting skills. The local marshes provided inspiration for Julie’s semi-abstract aluminium sculptures, and also provided the clay for her terracotta pieces. She strongly defended her need to work in different media: ‘My work has been criticised for its lack of consistency, the lack of a “theme” but since when has spirit been consistent? I revel in the variety of spirit, from the trivial to the profound, and this variety calls for a corresponding variety in technical interpretation, sometimes requiring this media, another time that, so that some of my work is cast in bronze, some in direct aluminium, some in a terracotta technique I have perfected, some in resin and chalk, some in ceramic’.

After participating in mixed shows (1966-68), Julie’s first one-woman exhibition was in May 1970 at the Woodstock Gallery, London. She continued to exhibit, and sold her work through Harrods. She was reviewed in Studio International, The Freethinker and Arts Review; in October 1971 she and her husband were the subject of a television documentary called ‘Art Centre’; in December 1971 Julie was featured in ‘Personally Speaking’ on BBC Radio Medway. She had mixed feelings about the clash between public and private life: ‘Maybe I have something important to contribute to the world and I shouldn’t be so self-effacing. I must examine all this. As long as I make enough money to live. To sculpt. Sculpture. The psychological impact of this art form is tremendous, and I am Mistress of it. I am going through a crucial period in my life; that I am out of the limelight protects me. I am an undercover agent’.

Julie found it extremely difficult to adjust to her husband’s death after a decade spent together. She moved into a pair of cottages in Faversham, and converted them into a studio and exhibition gallery. Four years later she opened the Faversham Studio with a show of her own work past and present, and her husband’s paintings, thus fulfilling a long-term ambition. Some say there was a new sense of optimism about Julie’s new work shown at what must have been an exciting moment in her life, but sadly the following year she died of cancer. Above are some of the poems she wrote while too ill to work anymore on her sculpture.

From a Life
of being oblivious of my body
I am hurled
Into me
The Body is All
and will be
Ruling me
Out of Existence?

Creativity, Creativity
That’s how I did it before
When the clay refused to budge
I punched it and mentally kicked it
It stood whole
And beautiful
More than
A new day

Published by Delores Jackson, on September 11th, 2014 at 7:53 am. Filled under: Sculpture Tags: , No Comments


ELENA SAMPERI was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1951. Between 1972 and 1978 she worked with other painters and attended several part-time courses in art and graphic design in Italy, France and England, but she was never a full-time art student. She graduated in Foreign Languages and History of Art fron Genoa University in 1974 and moved to London at the beginning of 1975. She was a member of Women’s Images, taking part in the travelling exhibitions ‘Women’s Images of Men’ 1980, and ‘Pandora’s Box’ 1984-85. She exhibited in Brazil, Italy and Great Britain.

Elena sadly died in a bus accident in October 1987 near Sao Paulo, Brazil, where she lived the last two years. In this article Marisa Rueda and Jacquline Morreau, friends and colleagues speak about her. An exhibition by Elena Samperi and Marisa Rueda called ‘Tropical Forests for Sale’ will open at Art Space Gallery, 84 St Peter’s St, London N1, 16 March-6 April.

IN 1980 I met Elena Samperi at an artists’ meeting at Jacqueline Morreau’s house. We saw slides of each other’s work and we both liked them. Since then we have been friends and we worked in the same studio. It is very difficult to speak of Elena when I am all the time speaking to her.

le opere

I think I will speak to you, Elena, for a long time to come. It is very difficult, suddenly, not to share with you the feelings and thoughts we used to spend hours speaking of.

I loved it when you, seated in your high chair, in front of your painting used to talk to me and make me know your ideas. We used to speak about the world: the likelihood of a nuclear war, the last horrors of the military coup in Argentina, the possibilities of women artists in becoming part of the establishment, your perception of your past lives. We spoke of the value of art, of the possibilities of art as a force for change, about selling art and the commercialisation of it. One has to thank the artist when one buys one of her works because one always buys much more than just an object. Elena was a very successful woman in money terms, she was a very good organiser and she knew how to make her work pay, but not her paintings. We used to speak of this duality and how much our romantic/Bohemian upbringing in the way we were looking at artists and work was stopping us from selling.

Elena was a person of contrasts. Very sure of herself, an aggressive security in some moments and at the same time a capacity to doubt nearly to disintegration. We used to share this last area a lot, we used to think about a subject to its final disintegration, or to its final ambiguity or to the final relativity of it. We used to laugh at all this dramatic panorama and Elena always used a Tango phrase: Life is an absurd wound (La vida es una herida absurda). Absurd, absent of planning, grotesque like life was your death. I would like to speak with you about your death, make some history around it, laugh at some of our presumptions, and maybe finish with our favourite phrase: La vida es una herida absurda.

It was Parati. It was raining … raining … always, with the same rhythm day and night. The pension was old, dusty with brown baroque furniture. We, Elena, Cristina my daughter, and I walked on the stone paved streets in summer clothes with black umbrellas, Japanese figures in a tropical landscape. The river grew, the sea was grey, the vegetation got dull and exuberant at the same time. We began to feel strange, timeless, as in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ fictional City of Macondo. Serpents, insects, moving reptiles began to be felt more than to be seen, everywhere. The rain continued.

Elena was walking with these old shoes, flat shoes, the striped suit, green and black that I bought for her and she used continuously. Her relation with objects–paints, brushes, clothes, furnitures, cars–was of a tiring use, neglecting how much they could last. There was no thought about durability.

The visual aspect of everything was important, beautiful, aesthetic, baroque, happy, full of meaning, exuberant; from her house to her looks. So in that line fame was also unimportant: I prefer Brazil to Europe, they do not have to carry such a heavy history.


She was one of those persons whose presence was always noticed, she was brilliant, exigent, a woman of real courage in her conversations, always making some interesting point, nearly always a sore point, stirring and shaking formal positions. She used to speak quite openly about her relations, her lovers. She was also daily worried about her health.

I inherited a lot from you, I am more active in the evenings, each time when I feel low I remember your energy and your decision to finish situations and have done with them. I want to inherit that. I also want to be able to seek and face truth, and have the will to grow that you had in the last years. When you moved to Brazil, you went towards the sun, the light, towards the continent I love so much.

In those four long years away, Elena retrained in alternative medicine, and her interest in esoteric life increased. She learnt massage, reflexology, aromatherapy, rebirthing. Her sensitivity as a tarot reader and a medium brought around her a lot of people in Brazil, where Elena was going to build her holistic centre. Your capacity to create new situations, new models of life and work, new ways of integrating the two countries–in spite of distance — was prodigious.

Everything was possible, I dreamt with your dreams. We began to do workshops together: we will have a place in Parati, one in London. We created workshops, organised an installation and an exhibition in Art Space. You made the pictures for the show, I did some hands in clay. We were in a hurry but we managed everything: catalogue design, statement, photos, we did it. I needed more time with my work. In fact I finished my involvement in our exhibition just now.

If one believes in destiny, predestiny, reincarnation or life after death a lot of details are beginning to be in place in this puzzle. For me, Elena: La vida es una herida absurda.


Published by Delores Jackson, on September 10th, 2014 at 7:21 am. Filled under: artistsNo Comments


Bert Irvin RA

Albert Irvin studied at Northampton School of Art from 1940 to 1941, before serving as a navigator in the RAF during Wold War II. He went on to study at Goldsmiths College, where he later retuned to teach between 1962 and 1983. He has also taught at art colleges throughout Britain.  Irvin’s first solo exhibition was held in 1960 at 57 Gallery in Edinburgh and he subsequently has had many one-man shows internationally and at the Gimpel Fils Gallery in London. A major retrospective of his work from 1960 to 1989 was held at the Serpentine Gallery in 1990. He continues to exhibit regularly at Gimpel Fils, London.  Irvin was awarded a Travel Award to America by the Arts Council in 1968 and later received an Arts Council Major Award. He was elected a Royal Academician in 1998 and lives and works in London.  Paul Moorhouse, Tate curator and author of the book ‘Albert Irvin: Life to Painting’, wrote of him: ‘even to those familiar with his work, seeing a new painting by Irvin can be an extraordinary experience akin to discovering a young, energetic artist in the first flush of ambition. Given the force of its restless energy, its freshness and the sense it communicates of an artist in love with his chosen activity, it is even more surprising to realise that this is the work of an artist in his late seventies’.

Star 1V
1993 ed 125
£700 framed

Star 1
1993 ed 125
£700 framed

Gouache on paper from The Kennington series


Published by Delores Jackson, on September 7th, 2014 at 3:16 am. Filled under: artistsNo Comments

SIGNED Fist Edition hardback by Academy Editions

SIGNED Fist Edition hardback by Academy Editions, London, 1988 and in new condition with 96 pages, 140 illustrations, including 32 in full colour. The book size is 9.75″ x 12.25″.

This is a book dedicated to Frank Martin, a graphic artist whose work includes woodcuts, linocuts, woodcuts, etchings, drypoints, drawings, watercolours and collages on themes inspired from the ea of the Silver Screen.

Elegant and sophisticated Hollywood film stars or chorus girls in group compositions or nude and always represented in Art Deco settings together with essays by the authors Awas and John Koba which discuss the influence of the glamorous world of cinema.

Contains full catalogue of prints and illustrations together with biographical notes and list of exhibitions.

Price £40 inc p&p

Send UK cheque payable to Gallery 17,
17 Princes Street, Shrewsbuy SY1 1LP

and book will be despatched same day.


Published by Delores Jackson, on September 7th, 2014 at 3:05 am. Filled under: BooksNo Comments

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe
36″ x 36″
Sunday ‘B’ Morning silk screen prints are stamped on the verso.
£650 each framed in perspex.

Published by Delores Jackson, on September 7th, 2014 at 3:01 am. Filled under: MarilynNo Comments