Gluck: Art and Identity opens in Brighton

The world's first exhibition to explore both the life and work of the 20th century artist Gluck has opened at Brighton Museum.

Wednesday, 6th December 2017, 2:41 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 6:36 am
Gluck, c.1932, by Howard Coster. From the Fine Arts Society

The world’s first exhibition to explore both the life and work of the 20th century artist Gluck has opened at Brighton Museum.

Gluck: Art and Identity, which will be open until March 11, showcases the artist born Hannah Gluckstein (1895-1978), who went on to be recognised as a trailblazer of gender fluidity.

Not only known for her distinctive style, which incorporated men’s tailoring and barber-cut short hair, Gluck was a well received artist who produced paintings of portraits, flowers and landscapes.

A dress from Gluck's collection of personal items

This showcase, which brings together 30 rarely seen artworks, also exhibits extensive personal ephemera such as love letters, personal photographs, and press clippings.

Martin Pel, curator of Fashion at Brighton Museum, said: “Gluck’s artistic significance has arguably been obscured in the last 50 years by the artist’s role as a figurehead and pioneer of LGBTQ lives. So with this exhibition we were keen to survey both Gluck’s personal narrative and the significance of the artworks, within the history of 20th century British art.”

Exhibited paintings, which are largely portraits and floral scenes, include Lilies (1932-6), Credo (Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light) (1970-3), and The Punt (1937), which shows Gluck with lover Nesta Obermer. The artist has a strong connection to the area: the start of Gluck’s intense affair with Nesta, the love of the artist’s life, is thought to have begun while the pair experienced Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne. In addition to donating the painting The Devil’s Altar to Brighton Museum and Art Gallery - one of only two paintings Gluck donated while alive - the artist also donated an archive of ephemera to Brighton and Hove’s city collections a year before she died. This assortment of items, which includes accessories, clothing, letters and photographs, was used to inform what the curators of Gluck: Art and Identity call the exhibition’s ‘forensic approach’.

Jeffrey Horsley, exhibition-maker and post-doctoral research fellow at London College of Fashion’s Centre for Fashion Curation, said: “Gluck: Art and Identity will be an exhibition as biography, celebrating Gluck’s work and dressed appearance using innovative techniques to reflect the curators’ explorations into the artist’s life story. But unlike conventional biographies the exhibition will reveal the dead ends, contradictions, unanswered questions and absent evidence they faced as they delved into Gluck’s past. This approach will also allow visitors to trace a path through Gluck’s life led by their own personal interests, rather than following a definitive narrative line, and reveal a fascinating story interweaving the personal and the professional.”

Gluck's smock

Gluck: Art and Identity was co-curated by Amy de la Haye, Professor of Dress History at London College of Fashion, UAL. The team behind the exhibition worked with The Fine Art Society, Gluck’s gallery on London’s Bond Street.

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The Devil's Altar, 1932, by Gluck. From Brighton Royal Pavilion and Museums
The Artist's Grandfathr, 1915, by Gluck. From a private collection