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The Women’s International Art Club (WIAC) was founded in Paris in 1898 as an exhibition platform and networking forum for women artists at a time of restricted opportunities in a male-dominated art establishment. The inaugural exhibition at London’s Grafton Galleries in 1900 went on to become a feted annual event until the club was dissolved in 1978.
Ben Uri has a proud record of collecting, exhibiting and promoting women artists, who currently form 29% of our collection, compared to national average of 3%. Our exhibitions programme has consistently highlighted women artists including Else Meidner (2002), Dora Gordine (2006), Clare Winsten (2008), Judy Chicago (2012), Dodo (2012), and Joan Eardley, Sheila Fell and Eva Frankfurther (2014).
Celebrating the 125th anniversary of the WIAC’s inception, Ben Uri showcases the club’s “sheer verve” (Bettina Wadia, Arts Review, 26 January 1963), juxtaposing work by 20 collection artists from a Jewish and/or immigrant background, among them, Sonia Delaunay, Dora Gordine, Clara Klinghoffer, and Orovida (née Pissarro), with loans from public and private collections by well-known WIAC members Ithell Colquhoun and Laura Knight, alongside celebrated exhibitors, such as Gillian Ayres, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Vanessa Bell, Helen Frankenthaler, Elisabeth Frink, Barbara Hepworth, Gwen John, Marlow Moss and Paula Rego, and neglected figures who deserve to be much better-known, among them, Stella Steyn and Ethel Sands.
The WIAC not only survived but often thrived against the backdrop of hard fought-for freedoms within women’s rights, particularly women’s suffrage, two world wars, the rise of feminism and increasing artistic, political and educational freedom. Encompassing paintings, drawings, sculpture and lithographs depicting portraiture, self-portraiture, the nude, landscapes, interiors, still life, and abstracts reflecting this wider history, the exhibition presents an exhilarating snapshot of the club’s correspondingly radical artistic output over seven decades.
A fully illustrated online publication will accompany the exhibition with contributions by leading art historians in the field, together with a related series of events including lectures and podcasts by women artists, art historians, conservators, curators and gallerists, offering a variety of contemporary perspectives.
Ben Uri Gallery 108A Boundary Road, St John’s Wood, London NW8 ORH