6 October 2012 – 27 January 2013
Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex is pleased to present the work of two of Britain’s most distinctive and respected female artists, Gwen John (1876 –1939) and Celia Paul (b.1959), placed side-by-side for the first time.
This exhibition includes key examples of paintings and drawings by both artists, offering a unique insight into the common experiences and themes which bridge almost eight decades of history.
Though separated by over 80 years, the lives and work of Gwen John and Celia Paul share many fascinating parallels. Both were students at the Slade School of Art and models and muses to internationally famous male artists, and each have expressed a strongly personal vision that reflects their identity as a woman artist. Their work is characterised by an intimacy of approach, with subjects such as portraits of other women, light-filled interior spaces and moments of quietude depicted with an extraordinary intensity.
During her lifetime Gwen John was overshadowed by her more famous brother Augustus John, but since her death she has emerged as one of the most significant woman artists of the twentieth-century. Augustus John described her as ‘the greatest woman artist of her age, or, as I think, of any other.'
Born in Wales, Gwen John studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, and in 1904 she moved to Paris where she earned her living by modelling. There she met Auguste Rodin and began to model for him, becoming his mistress at the age of 28, more than 30 years his junior. She remained in France for the rest of her life.
Unlike her Bohemian brother Gwen John led a very private life and the simplicity of her room with its few possessions is presented as an ideal in several of her paintings such as the iconic ‘A Corner of the Artist's Room in Paris' (1907), which shows the artist's attic studio in the Rue du Cherche Midi in Paris, where she lived from 1907 to 1909 (and is included in the show). She wrote: "My room is so delicious after a whole day outside; it seems to me that I am not myself except in my room."
Celia Paul shares this way of living and it is fitting that this painting will be shown alongside images created in the interior of Paul's Spartan studio opposite the British Museum, which was bought for her by Lucian Freud.
Celia Paul was born in Thiruvananthapuram in India in 1959, where her parents were missionaries, but she returned to England as a child. Whilst studying at the Slade School of Art from 1976 to 1981, Paul was taught by Lucian Freud, for whom she became a model, featuring in several paintings such as ‘Naked Girl with Egg' (1981), ‘Girl in a Striped Nightshirt' (1985) and ‘Painter and Model' (1986-87). In 1984 Paul had a child by Freud, named Frank Paul, who is also an artist.
Such familial relationships are strong in both John and Paul's work. While John painted intimate portraits of her sister Winifred, Celia Paul has painted memorable paintings of her four sisters as individuals and as a group. Speaking of the group portraits (an example of which is included in the show) Paul has said: "The similarities between us made me think of the fragility of identity, not just my family's but in portraiture as a whole."
For many year’s Paul’s mother was her muse and primary model and the exhibition includes one of her most poignant portraits, ‘My Mother with a Rose’ (2006). Of this relationship Paul has said: “It seemed important to me to work from someone who mattered to me. And the person who mattered most to me was my mother.”
Religion is another common them in John and Paul’s work. Gwen John was received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1913 and the exhibition features her painting of ‘Mère Marie Poussepin’, a copy portrait of the founder of the Convent of the Sisters of Charity at Meudon.
Although she is not actively religious, a sense of spirituality pervades Paul’s work. Her father was the Bishop of Bradford and the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is her brother-in-law. Following the death of Lucian Freud in 2011, Paul painted a series of 14 paintings entitled Separation which echo the form of the Stations of the Cross. These will be displayed in Chichester Cathedral to coincide with the exhibition at Pallant House Gallery.
Notes to Editors
Celia Paul will be available for a small number of press interviews. Please contact Emma Robertson on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01243 770841.
Coinciding with the exhibition at Pallant House Gallery is a showing of Celia Paul’s ‘Separation’ series at Chichester Cathedral (6 October to 20 November 2012).
A publication is being produced to coincide with the exhibition with contributions from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Celia Paul and Simon Martin, Head of Collections and Exhibitions at Pallant House Gallery.