Helen Saunders: Modernist Rebel

14 Oct 2022 – 29 Jan 2023
Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery

A pioneer of abstract art in Britain, Helen Saunders (1885–1963) was one of only two women to join the Vorticists, the radical but short-lived art movement that emerged in London on the eve of the First World War. Other members included Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound.

Saunders will be celebrated in a new monographic exhibition at The Courtauld this autumn, the first devoted to her work in over 25 years.

Her extraordinary drawings, which reveal her gifts as a colourist and knack for complex literary allusion, captured the dynamism of modern urban life and the horrors of mechanised warfare. In the years that followed the war, Saunders turned her back on Vorticism, pursuing her own path and working in a more figurative style. Due in part to Vorticism’s post-war fall from favour and to the minimising of her contributions, often by other male Vorticists, as well as the loss of almost all her paintings, Saunders fell into obscurity. Only in recent years has her work begun to be rediscovered and recognised as a vital piece in the story of British modern art.

Helen Saunders: Modernist Rebel will showcase a remarkable group of 18 of the artist’s drawings and watercolours, given to The Courtauld in 2016 to form the largest public collection of Saunders’s work in the world.

The drawings trace her artistic development, from glimpses into her early period as an artist in the orbit of Roger Fry and the Bloomsbury Group, to a landmark group of six drawings from her Vorticist period. Landscapes created in L’Estaque in the south of France in the 1920s reveal Saunders response to her environment and to the art of predecessors who had worked there earlier such as Paul Cézanne and Georges Braque.

The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue.

14 Oct 2022 - 29 Jan 2023

The Courtauld Gallery  The Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery 

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