Privately Held

Marion Adnams
(1898 - 1995)

Medusa Grown Old, 1947

SKU: 9885

Oil on panel
21 ¬Ω x 15 ¬Ω in. (55 x 39.5 cm)

Height – 55cm
Width – 39.5cm


Exhibited: Cathedral Church All Saints Derby, An Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Marion Adnams, 27th October-5th November, no 75

In 1947, Marion Adnams ‚Äì the leading Surrealist in Derby ‚Äì borrowed a small African sculpture from the city’s museum for closer study.

‘One day I made a drawing of her, and, when it was finished, dropped it down on the floor by my chair. By chance, it landed on a drawing I had done the day before ‚Äì a drawing of an ancient English oak tree, with gnarled, twisting branches. They framed the head of the African figure, and there she was ‚Äì Medusa, with snakes for hair.’

Those snakes are the Gorgon’s most luridly distinctive attribute. But Adnams gave her new composite work a more unexpected title, Medusa Grown Old.

In classical myth, Medusa died young. A mortal, unlike her sister- Gorgons, she was beheaded by the youthful hero Perseus, heavily briefed by gods and fates. At her death, Medusa was heavily pregnant by the greatest sea god, Poseidon; sources differ as to her consent. The winged steed Pegasus sprang from his slain mother’s blood, and from Pegasus’ hoof-beat came in turn the Hippocrene spring ‚Äì vital source of all artistic inspiration.

Set apart from any such cyclical destiny, Adnams’ African Gorgon presides over barren rock and blasted bough, the stricken world of Modernism and its post-war legacy. Adnams kept the sculpture ‚Äì long after the picture was finished ‚Äì, but then returned ‚ÄúMedusa‚Äù after an attack of nocturnal panic. ‚ÄúAfter that I confined myself to shells and butterflies ‚Äì very beautiful and much safer.‚Äù

Commentary by Minoo Dinshaw, author of Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman (2016). He is currently investigating the workings of the god Mercury in seventeenth century England.

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Adnams, Marion

1898 – 1995

Marion Adnams initially trained as a modern languages teacher; however, woodcuts she made while travelling in Europe during the 1920s received significant praise when she exhibited them at Derby Art Gallery, prompting her to re-train at Derby School of Art during the 1930s. She qualified as an art teacher in 1938 and in 1946 she became Head of Art at Derby Diocesan Training College.

From the late 1930s onwards, Adnams became known for her distinctive Surrealist paintings, and exhibited in local galleries and in London, including at the British Art Centre and the Modern Art Gallery Although she never formally joined any Surrealist societies, she made a significant contribution to the movement, particularly regarding female/male dichotomies within the group, which she explored extensively in her work. In 2017 she was the subject of a retrospective at Derby Art Gallery.

She wrote extensively, including an unpublished Autobiography.


Marion Adnams (1898 - 1995)
Mount, Mount, My Soul
Marion Adnams (1898 - 1995)
A two part design for a Nautical Mural, 1930’s
Marion Adnams (1898 - 1995)
Study for The Twins, 1955
Marion Adnams (1898 - 1995)
Study of Lilies, 1930’s
Marion Adnams (1898 - 1995)
Study of a variagated croton leaf, early 1930’s
Marion Adnams (1898 - 1995)
Study of Morning Glory (Ipomoea species), circa 1930
Marion Adnams (1898 - 1995)
Fishing Gear, Sark, 1953
Marion Adnams (1898 - 1995)
Medusa Grown Old, 1947