When Dreams confront Reality

[Installation view at The Hepworth Wakefield © David Lindsay 2022 – photosbydavid.co.uk. Artwork in foreground: Frederick Edward McWilliam, The Left Handed Tea Drinker, 1981, bronze. The Sherwin Collection, Leeds, UK. By kind permission of the Estate of F E McWilliam.]

A major new exhibition of Surrealist art opens at Bath’s Victoria Art Gallery on Otoctober 13th.

It’s entitled When Dreams Confront Reality: Surrealism in Britain and will run until 7th January, 2024.

This stunning display celebrates the diversity of British Surrealism and its influences with works by artists including Max Ernst, Julian Trevelyan, Leonora Carrington, and Man Ray.

Featuring paintings, collage, drawings, ceramics and sculptures, it offers a rare opportunity to see these artworks together in the heart of Bath.

The Victoria Art Gallery is only the second venue to host the exhibition following its debut at the Hepworth Wakefield last year. The artwork on display comes from The Sherwin Family Collection, arguably the most significant collection of British Surrealism in private ownership, which is now in the care of the Hepworth Wakefield.

Surrealism originated in Paris in 1924, in the aftermath of the First World War. British artists such as Eileen Agar, Roland Penrose and John Banting visited Paris to meet the Surrealists and went on to develop their own unique British Surrealist style. The show highlights key aspects of British Surrealism: the engagement with tumultuous political events and fantastical visual explorations of subconscious desires.

Works by talented female Surrealists who are only now receiving recognition, such as Emmy Bridgwater and Ithell Colquhoun, will be on display. Also on view will be pieces by artists working today who have been influenced by Surrealism, including Turner Prize artists Michael Dean and Helen Marten.

Councillor Paul Roper, Cabinet Member for Economic & Cultural Sustainable Development, said: “It is a privilege to host this stunning exhibition at the Victoria Art Gallery and we are delighted to be working with the Hepworth Wakefield to bring this important collection of British Surrealist art to Bath. The exhibition will be free for local Discovery Card holders, and there will be free family activities with a Surrealist theme over October half-term.”

Free October half-term activities for families include:

The Big Draw – Exquisite Corpse: The Surrealist drawing game
Saturday 21 October, 10.30am to 2pm

What wild and weird creatures can you come up with? Play the Surrealist artists’ drawing game and create a unique creature using pastels and card.

Surreal Sunnies or Cact-eye glasses
Tuesday 24, Thursday 26 and Friday 27 October, 10.30am to 2pm

Create cact-eye glasses for a surreal view of the exhibition. Make surreal sunglasses using colouring pens and colourful felt.

Marvellous Masks
Wednesday 25 October, 10.30am to 2pm

Make a marvellous mask of one of our Surreal characters from the exhibition. With one eye or an apple for a head, use your imagination to create a fun mask.

When Dreams Confront Reality: Surrealism in Britain is organised by The Hepworth Wakefield in collaboration with the Victoria Art Gallery. Tickets are available to book at www.victoriagal.org.uk.

The Sherwin Family Collection

In 1986, an exhibition at Leeds Art Gallery was Jeffrey Sherwin’s first encounter with

British Surrealism which, in his own words, “made me return and look again and again”. For Jeffrey and his wife Ruth, it inspired a lifetime of collecting Surrealist works of art and related archive material.

Dr Jeffrey Sherwin (b. 1936 – d. 2018) championed visual arts in the north of England throughout his life, starting out as a collector while a junior doctor. As a Leeds city councillor, Sherwin was instrumental in developing the Henry Moore Institute of which Moore himself laid the foundation stone in April 1980.

Sherwin was a GP in Leeds for 40 years and contributed significantly to the civic and cultural life of the city. An honorary Alderman, Sherwin was also executive chairman of the Yorkshire Arts Association and founder executive member of the Leeds Civic Trust. In 2014 Sherwin wrote British Surrealism Opened Up, in the words of the author, an ‘everyman guide’ to British Surrealism.

The Sherwin Family Collection of British Surrealism, and the associated archive, has now found a permanent home at The Hepworth Wakefield.

Residents’ Discovery Card

Admission to Victoria Art Gallery exhibitions is free for residents of Bath and North East Somerset with a Discovery Card. For more details visit www.bathnes.gov.uk/discoverycard.