“Words and Pictures” Book Club (Sept. 2022): Bohemian Lives, by Amy Licence

Join us for the “Words & Pictures” book club on

Friday 23rd September, 2pm at Pebbles cafe (in the old Havens on Hamlet Court Road)

to discuss Amy Licence’s “Bohemian Lives”

All welcome for a relaxed, informal conversation over coffee & cake!


Ida Nettleship was a flamboyant Bohemian who gave up a promising artistic career to marry Augustus John. She had five pregnancies in just six years, lived with Augustus and his mistress in a menage a trois, and died exhausted in childbirth aged thirty. Ida’s story of unconventional love is equalled by two other Bohemian women of the same era: Picasso’s first love Fernande Olivier, who was prominent in the Paris art scene, and the writer Sophie Brzeska, who lived with the artist Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, nineteen years her junior – he would die in the First World War and Sophie’s slow descent into mental instability would begin. Bohemian Lives follows the achievements and sacrifices of the three women and how their lives overlapped and contrasted, in education, childbirth, illness, marriage – and psychological disintegration. All three women had a huge influence on their more famous partner and challenged the accepted model of male-female relations of the time. At once touching and harrowing, their struggles for recognition in their own right hold a mirror up to the prejudices of an age – and what being ‘bohemian’ really meant.

Aberley publishing, 2019

A portrait of Ida Nettleship painted by Augustus John in 1902:

John, Augustus Edwin; Merikli; Manchester Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/merikli-205290

A portrait of Sophie Brzeska painted by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska in 1913:

Sophie Brzeska 1913 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891-1915 Purchased 1957 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T00147

and Picasso’s 1909 portrait of Fernande Olivier (Stadel Museum):


Some Notes & Images on British Surrealists [The Beecroft, August 2022]

Greetings! There was so much intrigue & interest in our ‘gallery’ of British Surrealist art, that I have copied & pasted some of the presentation slides below, really so that you have a list of the artists’ names to research further. Whilst I would recommend just typing names into the browser and seeing what comes up, particular websites for research include: ArtUK; Christie’s; Sotheby’s and Bonhams.

There is a website dedicated to British Surrealism; also the Tate has a lot of archival material, especially about Eileen Agar, John Banting and Ithell Colquhoun – much of which is digitally available.

There is an exhibition of the Sherwin Collection at the Hepworth until January 2023. The Dulwich Picture Gallery has some interesting online resources, and Austin/Desmond has a fabulous little online gallery.

Books are available on some individual artists, but I’d suggest the best overview is “Surrealism in Britain” by Michel Remy.

NB Len Lye is renowned for his experimental films. “The Colour Box” and “Tusaleva” can be found on YouTube. I’d also recommend “The Birth of the Robot” which Lye made with John Banting. See also The Len Lye Foundation.

Books on Eileen Agar: Hatchards

NB: The BBC’s “Desmond Morris – Secret Surrealist” is on YouTube.

We’ll continue our discussions next month (Saturday 24th September, 11.15am, The Beecroft), starting with Edith Rimmington…

Edith Rimmington, The Oneiroscopist, 1947
Photo credit: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem by Elie Posner © Estate of Edith Rimmington c/o Country Life

…and our focus with be the surreal world of Leonora Carrington:

The Giantess (The Guardian of the Egg) [1947; private c/o Wikipedia]

And if you would like to read your way into Leonora Carrington’s world, then there is no better path than her wonderfully brilliant novel: The Hearing Trumpet.

Happy researches (and do please let me know what you discover)!


Art, Books and Culture Group meeting, Saturday 27th August: Surrealist Magic (2) – Surrealism in Britain

Join us for the second in our Summer of Surrealism series to discuss

the manifestation of Surrealism in 1930s & 40s Britain:

Saturday 27th August, 11.15am-12.30pm

at The Beecroft Gallery, Southend-on-Sea.

NB The gallery’s new exhibition of paintings from the Reiff Collection, includes works by Surrealists Eileen Agar and Conroy Maddox, and is well worth viewing!

Maddox, Conroy; Prefiguration; The Reiff Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/prefiguration-307225
Attributes of the Moon 1947 Ithell Colquhoun 1906-1988 Presented by the National Trust 2016 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T15315

As ever, all are welcome to join the Art, Books & Culture Group – a relaxed and open discussion of ideas.

Tickets cost £10 on the door. We will start at 11.15am and finish around 12.30pm with coffee & biscuits. The meeting will be held in the Lecture Theatre at The Beecroft Art Gallery, Southend.