Phantoms of Surrealism

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    Sheila Legge as Surrealist ‘Phantom’, TrafalgarSquare, London, 11 June 1936. Photograph attributed to Claude Cahun. Courtesy Jersey Heritage Collections

Past Exhibition

This exhibition was on 19 May 2021 – 12 Dec 2021

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Phantoms of Surrealism

19 May 2021 – 12 December 2021

On a hot summer day of 1936, a woman dressed in a bridal gown paraded in Trafalgar Square; her head completely covered in 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 will examine the pivotal role of women as both artists and as behind-the-scenes organisers within Surrealism in Britain in the 1930s.

Legge’s contribution will be foregrounded alongside Claude Cahun (1894–1954), Ithell Colquhoun (1906–1988), Diana Brinton Lee (1897–1982) and others. In addition, connections between Surrealist artists and the politically active Artists International Association (AIA) will be explored, through the lens of an AIA exhibition held at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1939.

Material from the Gallery’s archive, together with items from the National Galleries of Scotland, West Dean College of Arts and Conservation and Jersey Heritage Trust will shed new light on the contribution of women to these important exhibitions.

Podcast transcript available, please click here.