International Women’s Day (March 8) is a chance to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. Here, we look at a trio of dealerships holding events to mark the occasion.
Red bombs fall from a sheaf of wheat like drops of blood and explode in a Soviet poster from the Second World War offered in Chelsea gallery AntikBar’s next exhibition.
Produced in 1941 shortly after the Nazis invaded, it bears a slogan which translates to ‘Let’s deal the enemy a blow with Bolshevik harvesting’. It is an arresting image, and one strikingly in contrast with posters of women from other countries during the war.
Opening on International Women’s Day and running until May 9, Fighting on All Fronts: Women at War showcases 50 original posters, primarily from the UK, the US and the USSR.
“Each country’s posters show a different picture of women, even when the countries were allies,” says AntikBar’s Kirill Kalinin. “The experience and the imagery are very different in each.”
For example, the USSR poster, designed by Alexei Sittaro and available for £3500, is in sharp contrast to a 1944 poster from the US for Coast Guard SPARS (the women’s reserve). Where the Russian woman is grimly determined, bulky and every inch a worker, the American is all glamour, fully made up and smiling in a neat uniform. Make a Date with Uncle Sam, the poster reads. Designed by Bradshaw Crandell, it is offered for £750.
“In Russia there was the occupation. Women were involved in the conflict and it was much more brutal. The images are much more aggressive and immediate. In America, impact on daily life was minimal. There was rationing, but rallying efforts for participation are more elevated, pin-up-y glamorous. It suggests, if you join the effort you’ll be like this,” Kalinin says.
In Britain, which experienced the Blitz, food shortages and rationing, women were encouraged to support the troops, handling war logistics and safety measures. Here the imagery on posters emphasised practical efforts and the enemy is referenced only obliquely.
A 1941 poster, from the UK, shows a smiling woman in brown workers’ overalls, with military planes overhead, encouraging women to Come into the Factories. Priced at £5500, it was designed by Philip Zec.
While the role of women at this time was quite diverse, Kalinin says, “it’s an area that’s not represented well in the media. Women had to deal with daily issues and family as well as supporting the troops and even fighting.”
He adds that the aim of the show is primarily to educate. “For us, this exhibition is not commercial. Obviously we are a gallery and we want to sell posters, but we really wanted to raise awareness.”
To complement the posters there will be a series of events. These include a talk by Kate Clements, curator of the new Second World War galleries at the Imperial War Museum, on Hidden Stories of Women in WWII (March 30) and Wartime Women: The Khaki Cabaret, a tribute by actress and singer Fiona-Jane Weston (April 27).
The war had a dramatic effect, if sometimes only temporary, on women’s social and professional positions. However, it is notable that few of the posters were by women.
Graphic design was a notoriously difficult world to break into, Kalinin says, and before the war only one organisation (Transport for London) employed women poster designers in the UK.
Richard Saltoun Gallery launches its new gallery space in Rome and celebrates International Women’s Day with an exhibition on Mozambican-Italian artist Bertina Lopes (1924-2012).
Marking the 10th anniversary of her death, the show runs from March 9-May 7. It includes a collection of paintings from across her career priced at €12,000- 120,000.
Known sometimes as the ‘mother of contemporary African painting’,Lopes had a 70-year-long career, working in Lisbon, Italy and Mozambique. Many of the paintings on offer feature the saturated colours and mask-like figures that defined her works. Among the best known is her canvas In memoriam de Picasso (1974), a homage to the artist’s death. Lopes met Picasso in the final days of his life and considered him the “genius of the 20th century”.
The exhibition is staged with Archivio Bertina Lopes and there will be a catalogue by Mary Angela Schroth, director of Sala 1 in Rome and a friend of Lopes.
Twentieth century British art specialist Liss Llewellyn marks International Women’s Day with a trio of exhibitions.
The first is an online selling show of pictures that were recently exhibited in WOW: Women Only Works on Paper, which the firm curated at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle. It was staged to “address the omissions and erasures that are inherent in public art galleries”, drawing on Liss Llewellyn’s long experience with reappraising less-well-known 20th century artists.
Featuring artists such as Winifred Knights, Evelyn Dunbar and Clare Leighton, the exhibition, which closed in December, included more than 50 works on paper from private collections. Though some works were exhibited on loan, many others are now available.
Meanwhile, the firm is launching its new book Portrait of an Artist about women artists with an exhibition of more than 30 accompanying works at Sotherans Rare Books and Prints. The show is comprised entirely of pictures by women including self-portraits and images of important female figures. Finally, Liss Llewellyn is collaborating with Piccadilly Vaults in Piccadilly Arcade to showcase works by the female Surrealists Edith Rimmington and Marion Adnams.
All three exhibitions run from March 10-April 1, and 10% of the proceeds will be donated to women’s charity Jeyetna. n