In this layered, textured work, parts of what appears to be a woman’s face – in particular eyes and a nose and chin in profile – are interwoven in a complex pattern. This painting shows how Eileen Agar’s style was influenced by Surrealism, particularly in its attempt to express the unconscious mind through the juxtaposition of unrelated and often fantastical items. The critic Herbert Read, in his preface to Agar’s exhibition in 1964, talks of how she manages to dislocate charm, by fragmenting it and depriving it of its sentimentality. Furthermore, he comments how her fluid images are ‘symbols, not so much of a vast unknown but intimate emotional experiences’. In spite of this fluidity, this is a crisp, well-ordered composition. The geometric forms in the background give the image clarity and the artist’s love of blue creates a cool feeling. Agar said about her work ‘I like painting to be as clean as a tennis court.’
Eileen Agar was a leading British Surrealist. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she came to England with her family aged six. She studied at the Slade School of Art after travelling to Spain, where she was greatly influenced by Goya and El Greco. She lived in Paris between 1928 and 1930, where she met Picasso, Man Ray and Ezra Pound. She was the only British female artist chosen for the major International Surrealist Exhibition held in London in 1936. She exhibited regularly at The Redfern Gallery, London, throughout her lifetime. In 1999 she had a retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh which toured to Leeds City Art Gallery and in 2008 there was a major exhibition of her work at Pallant House, Chichester.
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