Angels of Anarchy, Women Artists and Surrealism

26 September - 10 January

Book tickets

Tour guide blog

Flamboyant Angel

5 November 2009

I have been wondering what Joseph Bard, husband of Eileen Agar, was like and why she depicted him in the way she did for her artworks - the Angel of Anarchy and the Angel of Mercy. Before my tour, I searched the Internet and found a photo of Eileen and Joseph on their wedding day in 1940. Joseph looked fairly ordinary, wearing a trilby, trousers, black shoes and a long, tweed overcoat. I found out that he was Hungrarian and wrote short stories, some of which, when published including illustrations by his wife Eileen. I took a print of the photo along on my tour and showed it to everyone, as we were looking at the Angel of Anarchy.

For me, this artwork is very flamboyant - with the vivid colours of the silks and fabrics, the sparkling diamantes and the luxurious ostrich and osprey feathers - did Joseph have a flamboyant personality or maybe he enjoyed dressing up in private! Someone said that Hungrarian men were known for their flamboyant style of dress in the early 20th century. The Angel of Mercy is very different - we can see the eyes and facial features - quite menacing! - some people said that the Angel of Mercy looked like a Roman. Does anyone out there have any views?

On the tour, we looked at the painting "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" by Dorothea Tanning. Someone asked why she chose this title, when the content of the painting is so nightmarish - in total contrast to the light musical piece composed by Mozart. Later, we spent some time discussing the "Pincushion to serve as a fetish" by the same artist - Dorothea Tanning - again, there were the contrasts of the sharp, painful steel of the pins and the softness of the velvet along with the very strange erotic shapes and orifices. We thought it would be a very interesting topic of conversation for our friends if we owned such an artwork and displayed it in our homes!

I had an interesting question at the end of the tour "Did the women surrealists take drugs?" I have since checked with the curator, Dr. Patricia Allmer, and there is no evidence of this - but maybe alcohol!

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