Exhibited: 50/50; Fifty British Women Artists 1900 ‚Äì 1950, Worshipful Company of Mercers (3rd December 2018 – 23rd March, 2019); The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds (9th April, 2019 – 27th July, 2019).
Even at the end of her career, Jessica Dismorr was still making radical
shifts in her practice. This abstract, one of a series of such paintings that
preoccupied her final years, is typical of the palette of soft greys and putty
colours and the curving amorphous forms in her work of the late 1930s.
Although this painting may at first seem quiet, restrained and even
elegant to our eyes, Dismorr chose to show these late works at the antifascist
artists groups that were being formed at this time in response
to the rise of the Nazis. She exhibited with the Artists’ International
Association, and was one of only seven British women to be included in
Die Olympiade onder Dictatuur in Amsterdam in 1936, an international
show designed to counter the Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels’
efforts to condemn Modernism. Among the books in Jessica Dismorr’s
library after her death in the summer of 1939 was a copy of 5 on
Revolutionary Art (London, Wishart, 1935), a volume of collected essays
on how art could answer the political crisis and lead the way forward.
In that sense, even though Untitled may seem worlds apart from
Dismorr’s early work as member of the Rhythm Group in the 1910s ‚Äì
with its figurative subject matter and vivid palette ‚Äì there is consistency
and common ground in her unceasing risk-taking and desire to be part of
an avant-garde whose work spoke to the modern world.
Commentary by Alicia Foster, art historian and novelist. She is curating an exhibition, Jessica Dismorr and her Contemporaries, which will open at Pallant House Gallery in 2019.