Eileen Agar RA

1899–1991

Eileen Agar was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1899, but, after a privileged childhood, she moved to England to attend school in 1906. In 1911, her parents joined her in London, and Agar began to take weekly classes at Byam Shaw School of Art in 1919.

 

In 1920, Agar went to study under the engraver and sculptor, Leon Underwood, at his Brook Green School of Art, where she became friends with Henry Moore. Agar graduated to the Slade School of Fine Art in 1925, then lived in Paris from 1928-30. She had moved to Paris with the divorced Hungarian writer Joseph Bard, who was the love of her life, despite her penchant for affairs. Agar and Bard became friends with Paul Éluard (who briefly became her lover), Ezra Pound, and André Breton, as well as many other contemporary luminaries.

 

In 1933, Agar had a seven-year retrospective at Bloomsbury Gallery (which was also her first solo show), and in the following year, she became a member of the London Group, at the suggestion of Henry Moore, exhibiting her first collages with them. Collage was to become a staple of Agar's work, a technique that she practised throughout her life, several of which she exchanged with her sometime lover, Paul Nash.

 

The 1930s saw Agar's work become far more Surrealist, something which she, at times, denied. However, in 1936, Herbert Read and Roland Penrose visited Agar in her studio to request that she show works at the International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries, a seminal show that launched Surrealism in Britain. Agar was the only British woman to show works, and joined others such as Salvador Dalí, who almost suffocated in a deep sea diver's suit whilst giving a lecture.

 

Following the exhibition, Agar took a holiday in Brittany with Bard, photographing rocks at Ploumanach that became an inspiration for several later series of paintings and drawings. The next summer, in 1937, Agar holidayed with Leonora Carrington, Man Ray, Henry Moore and others in Cornwall, then Mougins, with Roland Penrose, Lee Miller, Paul Nash and more of their contemporaries, staying with Picasso. She also visited Swanage, Dorset, frequently, sometimes with Paul Nash, who introduced her to the found object. In this period, Agar experimented with new ways of working, taking a vast quantity of photographs and producing objects such as 'The Angel of Anarchy'.

 

War deeply affected Agar, who remained in London, working in a canteen. She continued to create artworks, and was included in Surrealism Today at the Zwemmer Gallery in 1940. In 1948 she was filmed for 'The Eye of the Artist' for the BBC. She exhibited frequently after the war's end, and created a new series of paintings influenced by Tachisme. Bard died in 1975, leaving Agar devastated. She was elected to the Royal Academy in 1990, and died in the following year.

 

The Redfern Gallery represents the artist's Estate.

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Works

Prints & Multiples Original Works