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Marion Adnams (1898 - 1995)

Emperor Moths / Thunder On the Left, 1963

Catalogue essay by Blanche Llewellyn

Marion Adnams began to paint in 1937 and she continued until she was forced to stop, losing her eyesight in 1968.

During her career, Adnams forged a reputation as a painter of deeply distinctive and dream-like visions inspired by the Surrealist movement.

In her autobiography, Adnams wrote “In September, I went to Venice. It was wonderful being in Venice, but there was nothing to draw. Or rather, it had all been done already. Venice herself was the finished article and, as such, I could do little with her” but upon seeing René Magritte’s ‘The Voice of Space (La Voix des airs, 1931)’ held in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Venice, Adnams found herself inspired again “In October, I painted the Emperor. Tho of these great moths cling to balls of blue glaze, floating in the sky above a landscape which was dark blue and purple with the threat of approaching storm”. In accordance with her  uncompromising dedication to recentring women’s experiences and the female gaze, Adnams’ floating balls resemble breasts, a contrast to the more masculinised motifs in Magritte’s painting, of which he wrote: “I caused the iron bells hanging from the necks of our admirable horses to sprout like dangerous plants at the edge of an abyss.”

x W45cm
Oil on Board, Signed
Adnams, Marion

Marion Adnams (1898 - 1995)

Marion Adnams (1898–1995) initially trained as a modern languages teacher. However, after woodcuts she made while travelling in Europe during the 1920s received significant praise when she exhibited them at Derby Art Gallery and with the Derby Women’s Club, she retrained at Derby School of Art, qualifying as an art teacher in 1938 and becoming Head of Art at Derby Training College in 1946 . From the late 1930s onwards, Adnams forged a reputation as a painter of deeply distinctive and dream-like visions inspired by Surrealism and exhibited in local galleries and in London, including at the British Art Centre, alongside Eileen Agar and at the Modern Art Gallery, alongside Jack Bilbo and Max Ernst. Although she never formally joined any Surrealist societies, she was a significant contributor to the movement, particularly regarding the female/male dichotomies within the group which she explored extensively in her work.