Helen Saunders: Modernist Rebel ★★★★ The Courtauld | Oct 14, 2022 - Jan 29, 2023


Ostensibly The Courtauld has two separate exhibitions: Helen Saunders: Modernist Rebel and A Modern Masterpiece Uncovered: Wyndham Lewis, Helen Saunders and Praxitella. However, they complement each other and are only a floor apart. On the first floor is the show of Helen Saunders' work and on the second is the intriguing discovery of her lost painting made by two students at The Courtauld. Helen Saunders: Modernist Rebel is a fascinating retrospective of an artist who was largely lost to posterity until quite recently. She was a member of the short-lived Vorticist movement and in 1914 was one of only two women to sign their manifesto. This exhibition draws on twenty of the artist's drawings and watercolours that were gifted to The Courtauld in 2016. Although comparatively small, it is a wonderful insight into Saunders' evolution as an artist and displays the remarkably varied and dynamic nature of her creative output. A Modern Masterpiece Uncovered: Wyndham Lewis, Helen Saunders and Praxitella tells the absorbing tale of how Saunders' work, Atlantic City, was discovered under Wyndham Lewis' painting of film critic and curator, Iris Barry. Its detection is a terrific story of artistic sleuthing, and its emergence is analogous to the rediscovery of Saunders herself. The rekindling of interest in her work cannot help but be fuelled by both of these excellent exhibitions.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Helen Saunders (1885-1963), Hammock, c. 1913-14, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust) © Estate of Helen Saunders, Brigid Peppin Gift, 2016

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