Eileen Forrester Agar RA (British, 1899 – 1991)
Oil on canvas
Signed AGAR (lower right), further inscribed, signed and dated ‘FLORAL EYES / AGAR / 1966 (on the reverse)
21.1/5 x 15 in. (55 x 38 cm.)
Eileen Forrester Agar was one of the most important mid century modern female painters of the age.
Agar was a British photographer and painter associated with the Surrealist movement. She studied at the Slade from 1925 – 1926 and then in Paris where she met the Surrealists Andre Breton and Paul Eluard. She was a member of the London group from 1934 and married the Hungarian writer Joseph Bard.
She exhibited with the Surrealists in England and abroad. She experimented with automatic techniques and materials, taking photographs and making collages. One such example, the Angel In Anarchy, a plaster head covered in fabric is now in the Tate collection. While on holiday in Swanage she began an intense relationship with Paul Nash who introduced her to the concept of The Found Object. Nash recommended her work to Roland Penrose and Herbert Read who organised the 1936 International Surrealist exhibition, she was the only British woman to have work exhibited and the only artist to present works of art at the international exhibition in the same year.
In 1937 Agar holidayed with Picasso and Dora Maar along with other notables including Lee Miller who photographed her. By 1930 her work was on the international stage but suffered disruption due to the war. She only really painted from 1946 onwards but held almost 16 solo exhibitions up to 1985. By the 1960s (when this painting was made) she was producing Tascist paintings (a type of European abstract expressionism). Her autobiography followed in 1988, and in 1990 she was elected as a Royal Academy associate in London.
This particular example is very clearly painted in a mid century modern context. The stark, bold colours are placed in flat geometric shapes on top of, and next to, each other creating a playful composition of a face. The blue background contrasts beautifully with the oranges, greens, browns and red which are cleverly abstracted in typical Surrealist fashion.