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  • Writer's pictureKate Hopkins-Searle

Society of Women Artists - Annual Exhibition

It’s been a long time since I wrote here – having had a bit of an artistic wobble earlier in the year & turned instead to sewing as my creative outlet. So, I almost didn’t bother applying to the Society of Women Artists’ annual exhibition, having tried & been rejected several times since 2014. However, on the final day in June for applications, I submitted two pieces and astonishingly, for the first time, I’ve been accepted. The exhibition, like last year is online rather than in the Mall Galleries & is from 21st September 2021. Below are my two pieces that will be on show.

The Society of Women Artists (SWA) is a British art body and registered charity that has had a unique history dedicated to promoting art created by women. It was founded as the Society of Female Artists (SFA) in 1855 by Harriet Grote, offering women artists the opportunity to exhibit and sell their works, which at the time, was extremely difficult due to the limited opportunities open to them. The society changed their name in 1874 to that of the Society of Lady Artists (SLA) and again in 1912 to that of the Society of Women Artists. Since 1857, they have held annual exhibitions in London with the exception of the years: 1941 to 1946, due to the Second World War, and in 2020, where due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had to replace the physical exhibition with an online exhibition.

Hygieia, from my Klimt series, a range of shoes inspired by the Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) portraits of elaborately dressed Austrian society women. The figure of Hygieia is a detail from a much larger painting destroyed during WWII. She is the goddess of Health and stands with the Aesculapian snake around her arm and the cup of Lethe in her hand. These shoes reflect both her ornate red robe and the dark headdress which are decorated with stylised gold patterns with the snake-like motif on the toe & the shapes on the bands over the instep. The style of the shoe is based on those made by the Italian shoemaker Pietro Yantorny (1874-1936), the self-proclaimed "most expensive shoemaker in the world" who created shoes only for the wealthiest women.

Frederike, from my Klimt series. Friederike Maria Beer was a young Viennese society lady who commissioned the painting. She modelled for it wearing a hand-painted silk dress and a short fur coat. Klimt, taken with the colourful lining of the coat, asked her to wear it inside out. The dress and coat fabrics have been interpreted in these shoes by carving their patterns into the surface of the clay then velvet underglaze colours applied by brush to portray the painterly effects of the image. The versicolour carpet with its floral motif is alluded to on the sides of the shoes.

I will post again once the exhibition goes live in September.

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