Born in Argentina, Eileen Agar (1899-1991) spent her early years among the British community in Buenos Aires, moving to London with her family in 1911.
Agar attended Leon Underwood’s studio school and the Slade School of Fine Art, but her mother disapproved of her desire to work. Agar ran away from home following a family row, dedicating her life to her chosen career.
Agar was the only female British artist to be represented in the influential International Surrealist Exhibition in London. The inclusion of her work came as a surprise: ‘One day I was an artist exploring highly personal combinations of form and content, and the next I was calmly informed I was a Surrealist.’
Although Agar did identify with the Surrealists, this was only one element of her artistic practice: ‘I was a woman artist, a Surrealist, an avant-garde painter’…‘my origins had been equally in abstraction.’ When pushed to label herself, Agar wrote: ‘If anything, I would like to call myself a humanist. Whatever you are going to do, you should do it here, on this planet, now. You must listen to your spiritual side and develop it. Listen to the things that whisper to you.’
This exhibition is part of the gallery’s In Focus series, in which a work from the Jerwood Collection is exhibited alongside loans from public and private institutions including Tate Collection, Tate Archive, the Royal Academy of Arts, Government Art Collection and Arts Council Collection.
Jerwood Gallery Director Liz Gilmore says, 'There has been renewed interest in Agar’s work during recent years, with contemporary artists taking inspiration from her incredibly varied body of work. She has always had credibility and had a relationship with Sussex, often visiting Farley Farm House, near Chiddingly, to see her friends Roland Penrose and Lee Miller. In essence, Eileen Agar is representative of Jerwood Gallery’s own values – to be credible, to inspire and celebrate female and/or often overlooked artists. In ‘Bride of the Sea’ visitors can expect a delightful insight into her work and life. Her vibrant colours, dynamic brushwork and exciting portraits reveal her to be an inspiring, free spirited leading light in British Surrealism.'