British Surrealism Unlocked: Works from the Sherwin Collection

Abbot Hall Art Gallery

11 April – 21 June 2014

£3.20 with National Art Pass (standard entry​ £6.35)

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Key works from the extraordinary archive of Dr Jeffrey Sherwin, a GP by profession, who has built up the largest collection of British surrealist art in the country.

Unlike other artistic movements, surrealism has never had a single overriding visual aesthetic, meaning the collection is diverse in its styles and imagery.

Represented are some of the earliest British surrealist works from the 1920s and early 30s, revealing that the movement’s ideals were evident even before the International Surrealist Exhibition of 1936. This key event, held in London and attracting over 1000 visitors a day, exposed the wider public to surrealism's radical nature.

Over the next decade the events of the Spanish Civil War and the outbreak of the Second World War saw surrealist imagery became more overtly political. It also played heavily on the imagination– from the psychoanalytical experiments of Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff to the investigation of gender and sexuality in the works of female surrealists Emmy Bridgewater and Ithell Colquhoun.

Works on display also reveal, that even after its peak in the 1930s and 40s, surrealism has continued to influence the work of modern and contemporary artists, from Desmond Morris and Conroy Maddox to Eduardo Paolozzi, John Davies and Damien Hirst.

Venue information

Opening times

2 Jan – Mid Dec
Mon – Sat, 10.30am – 5pm (4pm Nov - Feb)
Sun until 14 Feb, 12pm - 4pm

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)