Woman Pioneers of Abstraction22 January -25 September 2022
FREE entry, no ticket needed
East End Gallery
Woman Pioneers of Abstraction highlights woman artists in the Sainsbury Centre’s collection who were at the vanguard of developments in abstraction between the First and Second World Wars.
Sonia Delaunay (1885–1979), Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889–1943) and Natalie Goncharova (1881–1962) were all key innovators of abstraction. They forged a multi-disciplinary practice that ignored the established hierarchies that had traditionally separated craft from art. Their work encompassed a range of media including painting, printmaking, fashion, textiles and drawing. Woman artists were frequently encouraged into craft disciplines rather than fine art, which often served to advance experimentation in their practice. Often overshadowed in their lifetime by more famous male partners, their contribution to key innovations in Twentieth Century Art is now being fully recognised.
Florence Henri (1893–1982) and Paule Vézelay (1892–1984) were integral members of the Paris avant-garde. Henri was part of the group the Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square) founded in 1929, while Vézelay was a member of the Abstraction-Création Group founded in 1931. Both groups were important in disseminating the principles of abstract art internationally and notably to Britain. Jessica Dismorr (1885–1939) studied in Paris before returning to London where, in 1914, she was a signatory to the Vorticist manifesto, Blast, No.1. Margaret Mellis (1914–2009) relocated from London to St Ives in 1939, with Barbara Hepworth, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and briefly Winifred Nicholson following her to Cornwall. This chain of events become a significant moment as St Ives became the centre of modern British art.
The collection of abstract art at the Sainsbury Centre was started by the University in the 1960s as a response to the modernist architecture of the new University of East Anglia campus, designed by Denys Lasdun, and the university’s multi-disciplinary ethos. In 2017 a major bequest by Michael and Joyce Morris expanded the scope of the collection including a work by Sonia Delaunay (1885–1979) included in this display.
Image: Project for a cover for Vogue, 1916, Sonia Delaunay © The Artist’s estate