Three Colourful Summer Exhibitions…

The landscapes and communities of England, the characters of bohemian Paris and London, the glory of the creative imagination…

There are three very exciting exhibitions coming this summer that will draw us out of the lockdown slumber to thrill us with paint, colour and the exuberance of living. And this common viewer for one is very excited!  

(I’ve included as many links as possible for further exploration, but please let me know if there are any others I can add to build up our Common Viewer Resources!)

At Penlee House in Cornwall, they are celebrating the life and art of Laura Knight from 17th May to 16th September in what they’re calling a “major retrospective” that includes a number of paintings from private collections.

The exhibition will bring together over 60 works by the artist, exploring different themes she became fascinated with over her life. Her stunning landscapes in Cornwall, Yorkshire and Worcestershire will be shown alongside her paintings of circus performers and Gypsies.

There is also an accompanying book “Laura Knight: A Celebration” by art historian and curator Elizabeth Knowles published by Sansom and Company.

And, as I was looking that up, I’ve also discovered not only that Barbara C Morden’s brilliant biography Laura Knight: A Life is being freshly published in paperback, but that Laura Knight’s autobiography “Oil Paint and Grease Paint” is to be republished in February 2022 – and that is excellent news indeed as it brings Laura Knight’s voice directly to us, as well as numerous anecdotes!

Meanwhile, over at Charleston Farmhouse in Sussex (19th May – 30th August), there is to be a celebration of Nina Hamnett – the Queen of Bohemia as she was, quite wonderfully, known!

Hamnett’s paintings give us a glimpse into her life in Paris and London’s avant-garde communities, and into the relationships she forged. Her compelling portraits and skilful compositions such as her Parisian café scenes, reveal Hamnett to be one of the most talented and exciting artists of her time.


Again there is a book Nina Hamnett to coincide with the exhibition written by the brilliant Alicia Foster and published in the Modern Women Artists series from Eiderdown Books.

Sadly there’s no sign that Hamnett’s autobiographies are to be republished, but Rachel Campbell-Johnston certainly offers a flavour of the artist’s life in her Times review article “The Painter who became a Magnet for Scandal” as does Lucy Davies in the Telegraph: “Lucien Freud Perched, Rapt, on her Deathbed“.

Eiderdown Books also include Eileen Agar by Laura Smith in their Modern Women Artists series:

Eileen Agar was an artist who explored painting, photography, collage and sculpture. Her independent and inventive experiments with assemblage and colour linked her work inextricably with two major art movements of European twentieth century culture: Cubism and Surrealism.

which coincides with the Whitechapel Gallery exhibition: Eileen Agar – Angel of Anarchy (19th May – 29th August).

‘I have spent my whole life in revolt against convention, trying to bring colour and light and a sense of the mysterious to daily existence. One must have a hunger for new colour, new shapes, and new possibilities of discovery.

– Eileen Agar quoted on the Whitechapel Gallery website.

As Laura Cumming has written in the Guardian:

[Agar’s] art seems infused with a constant sense of the sea and the shore, but also with a characteristically independent joie de vivre. This survey of over a hundred works is long overdue, but better late than never.

Laura Smith has also edited a book “Eileen Agar” to accompany the exhibition that should be especially valuable as it brings together the insights of Andrew Lambirth and Marina Warner. I must also mention Michel Remy’s excellent book Eileen Agar: Dreaming Oneself Awake as well as BBC Radio 4 programme on Sounds about Agar by Iwona Blazwick, the director of Whitechapel Gallery, which is definitely worth hearing as an overview/introduction to the artist.


And of course Art UK | Home is as ever a fabulous website through which to explore all these artists.

Oh, what a summer of gorgeous looking we have ahead of us if we share Eileen Agar’s “hunger for new colour, new shapes, and new possibilities of discovery”.


About TheCommonViewer

Independent Researcher: gently exploring the art and artists of early 20th century Britain (with forays elsewhere, in particular Russian Art History); the Art, Books & History Group meets monthly in Southend-on-Sea Twitter: @TheCommonViewer

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