Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy – the subject of a glorious new show at the Whitechapel Gallery charting her long artistic career and the innovative way she introduced collage and the power of ‘found objects’ into her art.

For my first visit to a gallery after so long I would have been pleased to have seen anything. But to have the chance to review the work and long artistic career of a creative hero of mine was a huge treat. I’ve only ever seen Eileen Agar’s works represented within larger shows on post-war artists, the British surrealists or collage. To see the full span of her work was hugely enjoyable and a great insight into the evolution of this fascinating artist.

Self-portrait: Eileen Looking Out Pencil, watercolour and wash

Eileen Agar’s artistic life ran in parallel with some of the 20th century’s huge art movements and she was at the heart of the influential groups, often the only woman in the mix, reflecting the thoughts of the day and pushing her art into new realms. You can see the influence of Picasso and the cubists on her work, and then she became absorbed into the world of the surrealists (although she claims never to have been a ‘surrealist artist’).

The Modern Muse 1937

But what draws me so strongly to Eileen Agar is her enthusiasm for collage. She started with leaves, then bits of paper and all kinds of ‘found objects’ which she simply incorporated into artworks. Some of her paintings are impressions of collages filled with that intoxicating variety of colour, texture and pattern.

Untitled, Collage 1936 Collage and Mixed media on paper
Untitled collage, 1936 Mixed media and collage on paper
Self-portrait with Dandy, West Bay, Dorset 1934, Drawing with Collaged leaf and also Untitled Landscape 1940 Collage with horse chestnut leaf, vintage photographic print and other elements with coloured chalks and gouache.

One of my favourite images is of the dancers. It is figurative but contains all the variety and freedom of collage but made entirely with paint. It’s a charming picture.

Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy is on show at the Whitechapel Gallery from 19th May to 29th August 2021. Glorious. #EileenAgar

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