Artist Jessica Dismorr in focus at Chichester's Pallant House Gallery

Dismorr Self-Portrait_Private
Dismorr Self-Portrait_Private

This autumn Pallant House Gallery explores a fascinating history of alliances and connections among the women artists of the early 20th century in a new exhibition centred on the pioneering work of Jessica Dismorr (1885-1939).

Radical Women: Jessica Dismorr and her Contemporaries runs from November 2-February 23.

Spokeswoman Sarah Jackson said: “Jessica Dismorr was an artist at the forefront of the avant-garde in Britain involved in four key modernist movements: Rhythm, Vorticism, the modernist return to figuration post war and 1930s abstraction shown with anti-fascist organisations.

“This exhibition, the first museum showing of Dismorr’s work, aims to bring her out of obscurity whilst reappraising the contribution of women artists during what was a ground-breaking period in the history of modern British art.

“The exhibition will explore how Dismorr and her female contemporaries, engaged with modern-ist literature and radical politics through their art, including their contributions to campaigns for women’s suffrage and the anti-fascist organisations of the 1930s. Eighty works including paintings, sculptures, graphic art and archival materials, some of which have never been exhibited before, will be on show.

“Artists included in the exhibition will be Dismorr’s fellow Rhythmists Anne Estelle Rice and Ethel Wright; Helen Saunders, the only other female founding signatory of the vorticists; Paule Vézelay, who showed with Dismorr with the London Group, and Sophie Fedorovitch and Winifred Nicholson who exhibited at the Seven and Five Society in the 1920s. Dismorr was one of only seven British women at D.O.O.D (de Olympiade onder Dictatuur), Amsterdam in 1936, the exhibition designed to counter Josef Goebbels’ Nazi Art Olympiad, and her work will be seen for the first time in the company of other women who exhibited with anti-fascist organisations in the 1930s including Edith Rimmington, Betty Rea and Barbara Hepworth.

“Dismorr pursued her work despite periods of debilitating mental illness and died in London by her own hand in August 1939.”

Sarah singles out some of the exhibition highlights:

• Powerful images of radical modern feminity including Anne Estelle Rice’s 1909-10 self-portrait, described by women’s suffrage periodical Votes for Women as ‘marking an epoch in modern art’; and Wright’s portrait of suffrage campaigner Una Dugdale Duval, scandalous author of Love and Honour but NOT Obey, not seen publicly since the only exhibition held by the Rhythm group, which opened at the Stafford Gallery, London, in October 1912.

• Dismorr’s vorticist works including her only surviving vorticist oil painting, Abstract Composition (c1915), shown with the inventive work of her fellow vorticist and lifelong friend Helen Saunders.

• A little-known group of paintings by Dismorr, including self-portraits, following her return to figuration in the 1920s, with the work of Paule Vezelay, who showed alongside Dismorr with the London Group.

The exhibition has been curated by Alicia Foster.

Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 10am-5pm (excl Thursday: 10am-8pm); Sundays/Bank Holidays: 11am-5pm; Mondays: closed.

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