Makers not muses: Claude Cahun, Eileen Agar and Isabel Rawsthorne

Course Dates: 26/04/23 - 10/05/23
Time: 18:30 - 20:30
Location: Keeley Street
Explore the work of three radical artists whose work and practice defied convention in modern art from the 1920s to 1960s. Discover how each artist challenged and transcended society’s expectations of being a ‘muse’ by living freely and making art in a variety of media, from painting and sculpture to collage, photography and performance.
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Full fee £69.00 Senior fee £69.00 Concession £45.00

Course Code: VB659

Wed, eve, 26 Apr - 10 May '23

Duration: 3 sessions (over 3 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

Artists Claude Cahun, Eileen Agar and Isabel Rawsthorne have in recent years enjoyed a revival as practitioners of exciting and experimental art forms. Cahun and Agar escaped comfortable backgrounds to pursue independent paths amid the avant-garde of the 1920s and ‘30s. With an inventive photographic practice, Cahun produced some of the most startling examples of self-portraiture of the period. Challenging gender norms in France, Cahun changed name and sexual identity in 1914, a pioneering act that reflected a playful subversion of the role of ‘muse’. In German-occupied Jersey, Cahun and partner Marcel Moore utilized art and poetry as powerful forms of resistance.

Photographer, painter, sculptor and collagist, Eileen Agar was inexhaustibly curious about the world around her who regarded the flotsam and jetsam found on a beach no less important than oil paint or watercolour in her art. A friend and associate of the leading avant-garde artists, poets and writers in Paris and London, Agar was an important figure in the British Surrealist movement and one of the few women to exhibit in the international Surrealist exhibitions of the 1930s.

Isabel Rawsthorne’s identity has long been regarded solely as the beautiful muse, a woman who frequently posed for lovers or friends, including Jacob Epstein, Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon. New research into Rawsthorne’s own work as a painter and set designer in Paris and London up to the 1960s, has revealed an incisive artistic eye and her defiant commitment to radical art and ideas. Like Cahun, she supported the War effort through her provocative ‘black propaganda’ drawings created for a top secret unit of the Foreign Office. Painting in a style that was neither purely figurative nor abstract, Rawsthorne’s distinctively ethereal works explored themes of human and animal life, nature and mortality.

What will we cover?

-A focused study of each artist and examples of key artworks each week.
-The social and cultural context in which each artist lived and worked covering the period from the 1930s to the 1960s.
-How each artist defied the convention of being a ‘muse’ by taking control of their art practice.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

-Identify one to two artworks by each artist
-List some of the materials and processes used by each artist.
-Describe how each artist used their work to challenge traditional social conventions of being a female artist.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course is suitable for all levels.

You should be able to follow simple written and verbal instructions, demonstrations, hand-outs and health and safety information, and will be invited to take part in group discussion.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

You will be taught with a combination of slide presentations, group discussions and paired or individual activities. Handouts of suggested reading and web resources will be provided by your tutor to support your learning; these handouts will be available online/digitally for download via Google Classroom.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You might wish to bring a notebook. You might wish to buy some of the books on any reading list given out in class.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

-VB660 Focus on Cornelia Parker: An Art of Choreographing Things

-VB536 Feminism in modern and contemporary art

-VB537 Women in art 1800-1900

-VB554 Women in art 1900-1960.

Chantal Condron

Chantal Condron has worked widely in the public and private arts sector for over 25 years including at the Government Art Collection, Tate, Sotheby's, Visiting Arts and University of London Library. She holds a BA in History of Art & Architecture from the University of East Anglia; and an MA in History of Art & Archaeology from SOAS, University of London. Chantal is currently the curator of public engagement at the Government Art Collection where her recent projects include delivering the public programme for Ways of Seeing, the loan of almost 70 artworks to unusual public spaces in Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture. As curator of modern and contemporary art, she led art programmes at the University of Hull, Whitechapel Gallery, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and Ulster Museum, Belfast; and she has presented art talks widely in the UK and abroad. In 2019, her book, 'Peter Hedegaard', the first monograph on the Danish abstract artist, was published by Rocket Gallery, London.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.