Phantoms of Surrealism

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Open: Tue-Sun 11am-6pm

77-82 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX, London, UK
Open: Tue-Sun 11am-6pm


Phantoms of Surrealism

to Sun 12 Dec 2021

77-82 Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX Phantoms of Surrealism

Tue-Sun 11am-6pm


Water-flower, 1938

Oil on canvas
104.1 x 76.2 cm
Plymouth College of Art © The Noise Abatement Society, The Samaritans and Spire Healthcar

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Alchemical Figure – Secret Fire, 1940

Watercolour on paper
24 x 15.5 cm
Private collection © The Noise Abatement Society, The Samaritans and Spire Healthcare

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Sea Urchin / The Escaped Prisoner, 7 May 1938

Watercolour on board
56 × 78 cm
James Birch / Photo: Maria Anastassio

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Crustacean Caress, 1935

Pencil and Ink
30 x 38.5 cm
The Murray Family Collection, UK & US

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The Eagles, 1937

Pen, ink, watercolour, bodycolour and pencil on paper
© Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne (Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums)

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Swan, Undated

15.5 × 36 × 16.5 cm
©The Artist's Estate Towner Eastbourne

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Woman, 1934

22 × 38 × 25 cm
Towner Eastbourne

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Scale model of the London International Surrealist Exhibition1936 (detail), 2021

Gallery 1: 109.5 x 75 cm; Gallery 2: 166 × 96 cm
© Corella Hughes

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Added to list



Whitechapel Gallery Phantoms of Surrealism 1

Whitechapel Gallery Phantoms of Surrealism 2

On a hot summer day of 1936, a woman dressed in a bridal gown paraded in Trafalgar Square; her head completely covered in red roses. The mystery woman puzzled passers-by and later that day made the newspaper headlines.

Artist Sheila Legge’s (1911–49) appearance as ‘the phantom of Surrealism’ launched the ‘London International Surrealist Exhibition’, held at the New Burlington Galleries in Mayfair.

The archive exhibition Phantoms of Surrealism examines the pivotal role of women as both artists and as behind-the-scenes organisers within the Surrealist movement in Britain in the 1930s.

Legge’s contribution will be foregrounded alongside Claude Cahun (1894–1954), Diana Brinton Lee (d. 1982), Margaret Nash (1887–1960), and others. In addition, connections between Surrealist artists and the politically active Artists International Association will be explored, especially at the AIA exhibition held at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1939.

Material from the Gallery’s archive, together with items from the National Galleries of Scotland, Marx Memorial Library and Jersey Heritage Trust will shed new light on the contribution of women to these important exhibitions.

Courtesy of Whitechapel Gallery, London

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