The first major exhibition of women artists and Surrealism to be held in Europe, Angels of Anarchy, opens this autumn at Manchester Art Gallery
. Featuring over 100 artworks by 33 women artists, the exhibition is a celebration of the crucial, but at the time not fully recognised, role that women artists have played within Surrealism.
Paintings, prints, photographs, surreal objects and sculptures by well-known international artists including Frida Kahlo, Meret Oppenheim, Leonora Carrington and Lee Miller will be exhibited alongside works by artists less well-known in the UK, such as Emila Medková, Jane Graverol, Mimi Parent, Kay Sage and Francesca Woodman. Manchester Art Gallery is the only venue for this exhibition, making it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the works of so many significant women artists displayed together, with many of the works on loan from international public and private collections.
Angels of Anarchy includes some of the most important, radical (and sometimes still shocking) Surrealist works produced during the 20th century by women artists from across the globe, including artists from Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Mexico, Switzerland, the UK and the USA.
The exhibition is an ambitious exploration of how women artists have responded to and challenged the traditionally male-dominated artistic subjects of landscape, portraiture, still-life, the domestic interior and fantasy within the Surrealist genre. Through these five themes, the show reveals how these women have developed, enriched and significantly reshaped Surrealism to create an empowering and erotic art form which speaks of their experiences as women and as artists.
Among the best-known and most significant artworks in the show are: Leonora Carringtons Self-Portrait (The Inn of the Dawn Horse) (c. 1937-38) and Meret Oppenheims iconic objects Fur Gloves with Wooden Fingers (1936) and Squirrel (1973/4). The show also includes the rare exhibition of two of Eileen Agars most famous works together: Angel of Anarchy (1936 - 40) and the counterpart Angel of Mercy (1936).
Frida Kahlos exquisite self-portrait Diego and I (1949) features in the exhibition together with a number of her significant, yet little known still-lifes such as Still Life with Parrot and Flag (1951) and a selection of intimate photographic portraits of the artist by Lola Álvarez Bravo. The exhibition also includes a selection of photographs of women artists by Lee Miller and Dora Maar, a series of androgynous and highly theatrical self-portraits by Claude Cahun, and several haunting self-portraits by Francesca Woodman.
A number of the works on display have rarely been on public display, including a Cast of Lee Millers Torso (c. 1942), while other works by lesser-known artists have never been shown in public before, such as the arresting Mouth with Ear (1973) by Penny Slinger and Josette Exandiers La Caresse (1995).
Angels of Anarchy also includes a selection of ephemera such as poetry, books, photographs, letters and cards to illustrate the fascinating relationships between many of the Surrealist artists. In addition, it features a number of Surrealist objects and works on paper (known as Exquisite Corpses) made collaboratively by female and male members of the Surrealist group. These, in particular, demonstrate some of the unconventional and playful ways the artists challenged the male tradition of working individually.
Between September and January, Manchester Art Gallery is hosting a full programme of events, talks and lectures to coincide with the exhibition, including lectures by author (and son of Lee Miller) Antony Penrose, art historian Dr Alyce Mahon, and the exhibition curator Dr Patricia Allmer. The gallery is also holding lunchtime tours, workshops with contemporary artists influenced by Surrealism, and surrealist poetry workshops and readings alongside the exhibition. In addition, Manchesters Cornerhouse cinema is showcasing a Surreal film series, featuring women filmmakers such as Germaine Dulac, Bady Minck and Nelly Kaplan.