An Avante-Garde Woman

The other day I went along to Pallant House Gallery in Chichester to see the exhibition “Radical Women, Jessica Dismorr and her Contemporaries”.  Now I have never heard of Jessica Dismorr and after seeing the exhibition, I am a little wiser.   

For those who (like me) had never heard of Dismorr, she was a painter and illustrator working mostly between 1912 and 1937 and was a participant in most of the avant-garde groups during that time.   She was one of only two women in the Vorticist movement and exhibited also with the Seven and Five Society, Allied Artists Association and the London Group, as well as contributing to Rhythm magazine, an avant-garde publication founded in 1911 promoting innovative art, music and literature and critical theory.  Dismorr was a devoted follower of radical politics and her close friend Robin Ody (and executor of her Will) described her as being “the Edwardian phenomenon of the new woman”.  During WW1 she worked a s a nurse and later served as a bilingual field officer with the American Friends Service Committee.  After the war she was in the mainstream of the avant-garde world being friends with T S Eliot and Ezra Pound.  In the early 1920’s she travelled extensively through Europe.  In 10920 she had a nervous breakdown and was advised not to paint, although her friend, the painter Wyndham Lewis suggested that painting was exactly what she should be doing.  After this time her work became gradually more and more abstract up to her death in 1939 a few days before the outbreak of WW2.

Other lady artists featured in this exhibition include fellow Rhythmists Anne Estelle Rice and Ethel Wright, Vorticist Helen Saunders alongside Barbara Hepworth and Winifred Nicholson.  It all makes for an intriguing exhibition featuring female artists who, although prominent in their time have largely been forgotten.

Exhibition flyer

Radical Women, Jessica Dismorr and her Contemporaries is at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester until 23 February 2020