Eastbourne celebrates Lucy Wertheim and her legacy

Towner Eastbourne is offering a pair of major exhibitions opening in summer 2022 that shine a light on the pioneering female gallerist Lucy Wertheim and the celebrated young artists she supported in her gallery from its opening in 1930 until its closure at the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939.

Lucy Wertheim by Lafayette, c.1945. Photo The Lucy Wertheim Archive.
Lucy Wertheim by Lafayette, c.1945. Photo The Lucy Wertheim Archive.

The exhibition runs from June 11 to September 25.

Spokeswoman Nicola Jeffs said: “A Life in Art & Reuniting the Twenties Group will showcase Wertheim’s vast contribution to mid-20th century modern art, reuniting works from her collection and telling her own story and of the artists that she fervently championed.

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"Over 150 works will be shown across both exhibitions.

“Born in Manchester to a family of cotton merchants, Lucy Wertheim (1883-1971) lived in the north of England with her husband, a Dutch consul, Paul Wertheim and their three children before opening her first gallery.

"Encouraged by the artists Frances Hodgkins and Christopher Wood, Wertheim opened the Wertheim Gallery in London in 1930 and in doing so challenged the established art scene conventions.

“Without any formal art or business training, Wertheim relied on her intuition and was driven by a belief that young British artists should have the same opportunities as their European counterparts.

“Wertheim was embedded in the interwar art scene; she surrounded herself with artists such as Edward Wadsworth, Frances Hodgkins, Christopher Wood, Helmut Kolle, Phelan Gibb and Henry Moore and sought out young and unknown talent to show at her gallery in central London, at the heart of Mayfair, a site still regarded as the hub of the commercial gallery world.

“Wertheim showed little interest in becoming a gallerist for popular, easily sellable work and was inspired by her deeply personal enthusiasm for her artists, such as the hitherto unknown Louis Vivin, a 70-year-old sorting clerk in the French Post Office, and Henry Stockley, a bus driver who painted on old pillow slips.

“Wertheim also generously supported many public galleries, schools and other institutions, whether through gifts or exhibition loans and opened further galleries in Brighton, Manchester and Derbyshire.

"It was whilst in Brighton in the 1960s that she cultivated her friendship with David Galer, the curator of Towner Art Gallery as it was then known and exhibited her works on several occasions at Towner.

"In her later life, Wertheim lived in Brighton and was cared for by one of her Twenties Group artists Kathleen Walne.

“Her dedication to her artists spanned five decades, during which she amassed a significant collection of paintings and drawings, mounted hundreds of exhibitions, loaned new works to schools and made many gifts to galleries and museums both nationally and internationally.

"Her own instinctive taste was reflected in the bold, vibrant, naïve style that characterised the work of many of the artists she exhibited and supported.”