Women 100: Inspirational Ipswich art show to celebrate 100 years of women’s suffrage
PUBLISHED: 19:49 25 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:06 29 January 2019
Women 100, an exhibition which celebrates the creativity of female artists is currently dazzling visitors at Ipswich Art School Gallery.
It is a dynamic collection of work, embracing a dazzling variety of styles and drawn from a wide range of female artists working over the past century. It is a glorious celebration of female creativity and a women-centric look at the changing face of the world. Most, also, have a strong Suffolk or East Anglian connection.
The exhibition has been curated by Emma Roodhouse who has dug deep into the Ipswich Collection to come up with a show which dramatically illustrates the quality of work and the creative flair demonstrated by female artists over the years.
The exhibition has put 100 works on art on the walls of the distinctive, spoke-like Ipswich Art School Gallery. As Emma notes: “100 works to mark 100 years since some women were given the opportunity to vote in a general election.”
“2018 was a big anniversary for the Representation of the People Act and we were keen to do something substantial to mark the anniversary. We wanted to put together an exhibition looking at women artists from the 19th century to the present day and give them a chance to let their work do the talking. Let the artists speak through their work, so we can have a dialogue between Anna Airy and Maggi Hambling or Amy K Browning and Ania Hobson, so past and present can show us the world as they see it.”
Emma said that it was great to have a mix of work – some from people who are extremely well known, people like Maggi Hambling, and others from those who appear to have disappeared from view, artists like Cissy Osbourne, who Emma says it is very difficult to get any information about at all.
“Regardless of their level of fame, all the work on show is of exceptional quality.”
One artist she is particularly pleased to have uncovered is Amy K Browning. Browning had a long career which stretched from before the First World War until the 1970s and was closely involved with the Suffragette movement.
“Amy K Browning went to college with Sylvia Pankhurst and in 1909, along with Sylvia, organised a women’s art exhibition. She also did illustrations for The Dreadnought, a women’s suffrage magazine and newspaper.
“We have one painting, Lime Tree Shade, in the Ipswich collection. It won the Gold Medal in the Paris Salon in 1922 as the world was recovering from the trauma of the First World War. It’s interesting to note that she used to sign her work AK Browning so people wouldn’t know she was female, a bit like JK Rowling did at the start of her career.
“It’s sad to think that they needed to disguise who they were in order for their work to be treated on its merits. Browning was an exceptional artist and we were very pleased to be able to borrow a lot more of her work from private collections. She had a tremendous range as an artist and it’s exciting to be able to give the public a chance to encounter the work of such an exciting artist who was making her name just as women were starting to make their presence felt in public life.”
Although Browning was born in Luton, she and artist husband Thomas Cantrell Dugdale moved to Wickham Market and then Iken, near Snape, after their marriage in June 1916.
Emma said that it was the diversity of the work on show that pleased her more than anything. She added that she was thrilled to have the opportunity to include the work of young contemporary artists like Jelly Green and Ania Hobson.
Ania was declared the BP Young Portrait Artist of the Year 2018 at the National Portrait Gallery while Jelly Green, although based in Suffolk, continues to travel the globe painting jungle and forest landscapes, she is also a member of The Arborealists.
Other local artists represented in the exhibition include Anna Airy who has several traditional portraits on display as well as a rarely seen study of a knotted tree trunk and roots as well a loose watercolour of a farm boy with a hare. Airy exhibited at the Royal Academy every year bar one from 1905-1956 but was never made a RA.
The exhibition also gives visitors the a rare opportunity to enter the twilight world of First World War London. A mini exhibition-within-an-exhibition shows a series of more than 70 pastel studies by Blanche G Vulliamy that reveal that wartime London existed in an eery half-light in which lamplights were half-obscured by black paint and searchlights projected beams into the heavens.
These atmospheric pastel sketches were undertaken during the last two years of the war and have not been shown since the 1920’s. For exhibition purposes these 70 sketches count as one exhibit as they are variations on a theme.
In total there are 65 artists represented in the exhibition which has been enabled by the Friends of the Ipswich Museums through the Women’s Centenary Grant Fund administered by the Government Equalities Office.
Women 100: runs at Ipswich Art School Gallery until April 5.