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...

There were​ high hopes for the son of Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley, the grandson of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, but the boy told his mother that all he wanted was a quiet life and a sailing boat. She wasn’t wholly disappointed at his failure to distinguish himself. When it was suggested at school that he needed to learn to think for himself, Mary Shelley said: ‘Oh...

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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