Eileen Agar’s painting ‘Guardian of Memories’

Eileen Agar’s painting ‘Guardian of Memories’, features in ‘British Surrealism’, at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, Dulwich, from 26 February – 26 May 2020

Abstract allegorical portrait of woman by painter Eileen Agar

Eileen Agar, Guardian of Memories, 1938, oil painting © Crown Copyright, UK

About this painting

Elements of pattern and geometrical form are combined with deconstructed figurative elements to suggest a woman’s face in this allegorical painting. Painted in 1938, ‘Guardian of Memories’ shows how Eileen Agar’s style was influenced by Surrealism, particularly in its attempt to express the unconscious mind by associating unrelated and often fantastical items. Critic Herbert Read commented on the painter’s ability to dislocate charm, by fragmenting it and depriving it of its sentimentality. Read suggested that Agar’s images are ‘symbols, not so much of a vast unknown but intimate emotional experiences’.

Who was Eileen Agar?

Eileen Agar was a leading British Surrealist artist during the middle of the twentieth century. Born in 1899 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she came to England with her family aged six. Against her parents’ wishes, she studied at the Slade School of Art after travelling to Spain, where she was greatly influenced by the work of Goya and El Greco. She lived in Paris between 1928 and 1930. There, she met Picasso, Man Ray and Ezra Pound.

Agar was the only British female artist whose work was selected for the important International Surrealist Exhibition held in London in 1936, where she was recognised as a central figure in the birth of Surrealism in Britain. She continued to paint until her death in 1991. Agar regularly exhibited  at The Redfern Gallery, London, throughout her lifetime. She also had several solo shows at New Art Centre, London. In 1999 the exhibition Eileen Agar 1899-1991: A Centenary Exhibition toured the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, and Leeds City Art Gallery. Her work can be found in Southampton City Art Gallery, the Tate Collection and the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Visitor Information

Dulwich Picture Gallery
Gallery Road
SE21 7AD

Until 26 May 2020

Telephone: +44(0)208 693 5254
Website: https://www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/2020/february/british-surrealism/