Angel of Anarchy: Eileen Agar (1899–1991)

One of the most important female artists associated with the Surrealist movement. 

 

Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse, 1936 (b/w photo) by Eileen Agar (private collection) / Estate of Eileen Agar
Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse, 1936 (b/w photo) by Eileen Agar (private collection) / Estate of Eileen Agar

 

 

 

Eileen Agar was a British painter and photographer associated with the Surrealist movement. Images available for licensing via Bridgeman Artists' Copyright Service.

 

From Argentina to Bouillabaise
 
 
Born in Argentina in 1899 to travelling parents, Eileen Agar moved to England at the age of eight where she received a British education. After finishing school, Agar studied in London at both the Brook Green School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art.
 
Agar was the sole British woman invited to exhibit at the International Surrealist Exhibition at the Burlington Galleries, London in 1936.
 
It was at this exhibition that Agar debuted her famous surrealist hat, Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse (1936). Often seen perched on Agar's head during her later life, it was acquired by the V&A on her death in 1991 and represents a streak of humour and high drama that ran through both her life and work. 
 
 

 

 
 
 
Adventures through France
 
 
A contemporary and friend of André Breton, Lee Miller and Man Ray, Agar lived in Paris during the mid-1920s and holidayed in the south of France where she stayed with Pablo Picasso and worked on new strands of work including collages and assemblage. This included exploring automatic painting which she used tentatively, stating 'I am suspicious of the whole idea of working from dreams'. 
 
 
Hawks, Volcanoes and other female creatures
 
 
Agar took ideas from Surrealism that she identified with rather than embodying the entire movement. Interested in representing emotions, through motifs Agar was able to depict raw emotions in a seemingly light, conveniently opaque manner fitting of the period.
 
In expressing pleasure and familiarity, Agar often drew inspiration from the addition of foreign elements to something familiar, which is seen in Angel of Mercy (1934), which depicted a plaster head of her second husband, Joseph Bard complete with detachable fur, collage and a star symbol shooting out from Bard's chin. 
 

 

Angel of Mercy, 1934 by Eileen Agar/ The Sherwin Collection, Leeds, UK / Estate of Eileen Agar
Angel of Mercy, 1934 by Eileen Agar/ The Sherwin Collection, Leeds, UK / Estate of Eileen Agar

 

 

Abstract Composition, (oil on canvas) by Eileen Agar / Photo © Christie's Images
Abstract Composition, (oil on canvas) by Eileen Agar / Photo © Christie's Images

 

 
Bridgeman and Eileen Agar
 
 
After Eileen Agar's death in 1991, her Estate was administered for a few years by her nieces. Reproduction requests have remained constant, and even increased in volume following a major retrospective at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester in 2008.
 
Bridgeman now administers copyright issues on behalf of the Estate, which is looked after by Agar's great nieces Helena Fraser and Olivia Dalrymple.
 
'The Bridgeman's support has been really appreciated, both in following up on reproduction requests and on resale of Agar works. We particularly welcome the personal touch -- we always deal with the same counterpart, who develops an in-depth knowledge - and appreciation of - Agar's work, which we believe ensures a more proactive approach to administering copyright.'
 
 
Images for Licensing 
 
Agar was an artist who managed to leave an impact in a male-dominated art movement. Many of her most important works can be viewed and licensed via the Bridgeman website. Contact us for image licensing enquiries.
 
 

 

 

Flying Tiger, 1981 (detail) by Eileen Agar / Private Collection
Flying Tiger, 1981 (detail) by Eileen Agar / Private Collection

 


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