Francesca Wade

Francesca Wade is working on her second book. Square Haunting is out in paperback.

At Studio Voltaire: Maeve Gilmore

Francesca Wade, 7 July 2022

‘Boys in Orchard’ (c.1954)

To advertise​ simultaneous exhibitions of their paintings at two London galleries in 1939, Maeve Gilmore and Mervyn Peake posed for a photograph at their home in Maida Vale. Peake, wearing a flamboyant floral tie, sits in the foreground, his looming shadow on the wall behind him. He is drawing a charcoal portrait of Gilmore, who stands silhouetted...

At the Swiss Institute: Rosemary Mayer

Francesca Wade, 6 January 2022

It’s tempting to read into these shapes, to see nuptials in the veils, cruelty in the hoops that cleave to the material like corsets, and more so when you consider the phrases Rosemary Mayer jotted on her drawings or in her notebooks: ‘a cracked egg’; ‘paint dripping thru broken skins’. But she insisted that ‘subject matter is extraneous – it is the materials & their properties that I love.’

At the Whitechapel: Eileen Agar

Francesca Wade, 17 June 2021

The​ Whitechapel’s ground-floor gallery is full of heads, not all of them with faces. At the entrance to this retrospective – her largest to date, showing until 29 August – sharp-bobbed Eileen Agar, 28 years old, looks out from Self-Portrait (1927) as if pondering her next move. In her autobiography, A Look at My Life, she described this as her ‘first successful...

Much of a Scramble: Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade, 23 January 2020

Ray Strachey​ is remembered, if at all, for The Cause, her history of the women’s movement, published in 1928. But reading that book – which is dedicated to Strachey’s friend and mentor Millicent Garrett Fawcett – you wouldn’t know that its writer played a major role in the events described at the end, when an ‘almost religious fervour … sent young...

From The Blog
7 July 2017

In the summer of 1932, Kenneth and Jane Clark visited Duncan Grant’s studio. They found it filled with dusty pottery, ‘unappetising’ faded flowers and ‘brown and purple canvases’ which made Clark’s heart sink. But his despair was stalled by the discovery of some ‘brilliant pastels … where the medium had saved [Grant] from the virtuous application of Bloomsbury mud’, and the ‘beautiful drawings and oil sketches’ which his wife found languishing under Grant’s bed. ‘In an attempt to revive his interest in decorative art,’ he writes in his autobiography, ‘we asked him and Vanessa to paint us a dinner service.’ Two years later, Bell and Grant presented Clark with 140 pieces, including 50 Wedgwood plates illustrated with portraits of famous women from history – 12 writers, 12 queens, 12 beauties and 12 dancers or actresses, and one of each of the artists, painted by the other. ‘It ought to please the feminists,’ Bell wrote, offhandedly, to Roger Fry.

Each of us is a snowball: Squares are best

Susannah Clapp, 22 October 2020

Ideal for snoopers, snip­ers, novelists, cartoonists and daydreamers, squares offer the chance of peering out in several directions without someone across from you peering back. They mix urbanity and...

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