Fine Art Exhibitions Archive

Edward Burra: real and surreal

28.04.2005 • 27.05.2005

Edward Burra: real and surreal

 

In commemoration of the centenary of the birth of Edward Burra (1905-1976), James Hyman Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of drawings by one of the most accalimed British artist's of the twentieth century.

Several of the works will be exhibited for the first time and suggest not only Burra's range but also his international standing.

One of the most individual of twentieth century British artists, Burra was also one of the most widely traveled, producing work that was both highly idiosyncratic and engaged with the leading international trends of the 1920s and 1930s.

The present exhibition traces this engagement, drawing out Burra's engagement with neo-Classicism as well as suggesting that his work inhabits a distinct space between the new objectivity of Germany and the surrealism of France.

The exhibition includes one of Burra's most decadent early drawings,The Singer, in which the exhuberance of art deco combines with the refinement of neo-classicism. Decadence is a key note. An agile snake slithers between the fingers of the seated man and genders are confused. The vampish singer may well be Burra's friend Billy Chappell whilst the seated figure resembles another of his friends, the celebrated choreographer Frederick Ashton. Both appear to wear dresses and there is a confusion of entwined limbs.

Meanwhile, in The Fountain neo-classicism, in the guise of a partially draped figure, meets contemporary high-society, in the form of the latest fashion, evidenced by the bobbed-hair styles. A hedonistic party is taking place and clothing is optional. The fountain springs to life. Nude women pour libations from phallic vessels and the statue has the warmth and fleshiness of a tableau-vivant rather than the cold of stone or bronze. The dominant central figure may be trying to cover her nakedness but her scanty toga is clearly insufficient and it seems likely that she will soon be losing the last vestiges of clothing along with any remaining inhibitions.The exhibition is accompanied by an extensively illustrated new publication.

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