The Mystery of Atlantic City: Helen Saunders’ Secret Painting

By Rebecca Chipkin and Helen Kohn
Published 12 August 2022


Rebecca Chipkin (PG Dip Conservation of Easel Paintings) and Helen Kohn (MA 2020) talk about their discovery of a long-lost Helen Saunders painting which had been concealed for decades beneath a painting by fellow Vorticist Wyndham Lewis.

Wyndham Lewis (1882–1957) was one of the most important British avant-garde artists of the interwar period and founder of the Vorticist group, active between 1914 and 1917. His painting Praxitella (c. 1921) depicts Iris Barry, his lover and muse at the time, and is one of his most celebrated paintings.

Praxitella came into the conservation studio at The Courtauld for the Painting Pairs project in 2019. This project connects History of Art students and Conservation students for interdisciplinary research, taking advantage of both the technical and art historical resources at The Courtauld.

Art historians had previously suspected that there was another painting underneath Praxitella. During the Painting Pairs project, x-ray analysis made it possible to visualise a Vorticist composition beneath Praxitella for the first time. However, further research revealed that the painting underneath is not by Lewis, as was first suspected, but by his female Vorticist colleague Helen Saunders…

To read the full article The Mystery of Atlantic City: Helen Saunders’ Secret Painting , please view the latest edition of The Courtauld News, Issue 44

Helen Saunders: Modernist Rebel

14 October 2022 – 29 January 2023

The first monographic exhibition devoted to pioneering British abstract artist Helen Saunders in over 25 years, showcasing a remarkable group of 18 of the artist’s drawings and watercolours.

Friends go free
Included with Gallery Entry, booking required

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i Helen Saunders (1885-1963), Vorticist composition (Black and Khaki) c. 1915 Drawing The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust) © Estate of Helen Saunders