Wedd scaan

‘Dismorr also uses distortion of scale to create a psycho9logical impact, linking her figurative work of this period to her earlier experience with Rhythm and particularly to the writing of Katherine Mansfield who used shifts in size in her short stories to communicate the terror that the powerful can inspire in the powerless’ (Catalogue). This is Ethel Levey 1924. The comparison with Katherine Mansfield is interesting. What is it about this painting that makes it something of a caricature like some/many of the KM stories? The painting is a short story in itself, though not a kind one.

NPG 6393; Jessica Dismorr by Jessica Dismorr

Jessica Dismorr is so fascinating that we have decided to devote this week on the Post to her and next week to ‘her contemporaries’. She had a nervous breakdown in 1920, her anguish possibly exacerbated by her experience as a war nurse. Books by Mary Borden, Cicely Hamilton (who wrote William in 1918 and couldn’t you imagine that you would have a nervous breakdown after writing it? Although CH didn’t in fact), Rebecca West and Vera Brittain leap to mind to explain this trauma. Here is JD in a 1926-7 self-portrait.  What is there to say about those sad staring eyes?

Tue‘Why have we never heard of Dismorr and the other female modernists with whom she shared her brief moment in the sun?’ asked Rachel Spence in the Financial Times here. (Huh! We think we know why.) ‘The new show at Pallant House in Chichester remedies the neglect with a thorough, nuanced investigation into the art and politics — both in terms of gender and wider society — of early 20th-century British modernism. En route we discover not only Dismorr but a clutch of other outstanding, forgotten practitioners. Born in Gravesend in 1885, to a father who was an Australian sugar merchant, Dismorr grew up in a world where women’s lives oscillated between the confines of patriarchal tradition and new possibilities for liberation. On the one hand, they were still regarded as wives and mothers. (Wyndham Lewis once asked Dismorr to make tea for his guests at an artistic gathering.) Yet better education, allied to improved networks of travel and communications, meant Edwardian women were more informed and ambitious than their Victorian counterparts. The demand for women’s suffrage, which gathered pace as Dismorr matured, exemplified the progressive mood. Blessed with a private income, Dismorr enrolled at the Slade School of Art. In this ostensibly forward-looking institution, women were nevertheless obliged to study life drawing in a dark basement.’ This is Jessica Dismorr’s Les Baux, the Priest enters his Church (1911).

Abstract Composition‘An artist at the forefront of the avant-garde in Britain – from her involvement with the Rhythm group during the late 1910s, to vorticism, post-war figuration and the abstraction of the 1930s – Jessica Dismorr (1885 – 1939)  has since, unjustly, fallen into obscurity. But at the Pallant in Chichester there is an exhibition of the work of her and her contemporaries who engaged with modernist literature and radical politics through their art, including their contributions to campaigns for women’s suffrage and the anti-fascist organisations of the 1930s.’ This is Abstract Composition 1915. Jessica Dismorr said that the painting was inspired by nights she spent wandering London with its ‘precincts of stately urban houses. Moonlight carves them in purity . . . They are the children of colossal restraint.’

Scan 3

When she got to England Gerty Simon’s career continued: until the outbreak of war when she stopped taking photographs, cf. this article in the Guardian. This is Peggy Ashcroft, taken in the mid 1930s.


The fabulous Lotte Lenya photographed by Gerty Simon. Last weekend there was a R3 programmed called Remembering Weimar 1919- 33 which admirably gives the atmosphere of this photograph, here. And here is Lotte singing.


This is Lion Feuchtwanger photographed by Gerty Simon. We publish his great novel The Oppermanns next April .


A photograph of an unknown child by Gerty Simon, unknown maybe but unforgettable.


For the last few months this photograph has been in the lift at Russell Square and it drew us inexorably to the Wiener Library and the exhibition there. This has now closed but the photographs are quite unforgettable. They were the work of Gerty Simon and this is what the Wiener Library website says about her: The exhibition showcases the remarkable work of German Jewish photographer Gerty (Gertrud) Simon (1888-1965), and features many of her original prints from the 1920s and 1930s. Simon was a once-prominent photographer who captured many important political and artistic figures in Weimar Berlin, including Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya, Käthe Kollwitz, Max Liebermann and Albert Einstein. In the 1930s, as a refugee from Nazism in Britain, Simon rapidly re-established her studio, and portrayed many significant individuals there, such as Sir Kenneth Clark, Dame Peggy Ashcroft and Aneurin Bevan. This photograph of Renee Sintenis (1888-1965) sculptor and medallist dates from 1929-32.


Designed by the same team of architects as the Hoover Building in Ealing, the Daimler Hire Car Garage (just behind Tottenham Court Road) was built in 1931 as the company’s head office. The offices were on the ground level and the deluxe chauffeur-driven cars were housed on the upper levels (the terrible Mrs Featherstone Hogg has one in Miss Buncle’s Book). © Image by McMann London

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