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Reuben Mednikoff

image credit [detail]: University of Sussex, The Stairway to Paradise Reuben Mednikoff, 1936

An exhibition now open in Bexhill-on-Sea, sees the first major presentation in twenty years of the works of two collaborative artists, Grace Pailthorpe (1883-1971) and Reuben Mednikoff (1906-1972), who brought artistic and scientific thinking together.—University Of Sussex News Room, October 2018

Original research by Sussex lecturer explores the lives and works of artists

Based on original research conducted by Sussex lecturer Dr Hope Wolf, ‘A Tale of Mother’s Bones’explores the lives and works of the artists, showing how they combined surrealism and psychoanalysis in a philanthropic investigation into how the visual and literary arts might liberate individuals and societies from violence and oppression. While Mednikoff was a professional artist, Pailthorpe had previously worked as a surgeon in the First World War and then, turning her attention from the body to the mind, investigated the psychology of women in prisons.

Psychoanalytic interpretations were often inscribed onto the back of their drawings, while paintings would be photographed and then annotated with in-depth explanations.

The exhibition, which runs from 6 October 2018 to 20 January 2019 at the De La Warr Pavilion, will showcase these artworks and the artists’ interpretations of them together, to tell the story of the couple’s lives. It will tour to Camden Arts Centre from 12 April to 23 June 2019.

The works on display will reveal how Pailthorpe and Mednikoff excavated their earliest memories, from birth to sibling rivalry, in order to understand their adult relationships, critical reception, political context and spiritual beliefs.

Dr Wolf commented: “It has been so exciting working on this exhibition: learning about the life and work of Pailthorpe and Mednikoff, seeking to place it within the cultural and political context of their time, and reuniting their paintings and drawings with the stories they told about them, many of which have until now been buried in an archive.

Anticipating the opening, I look forward to seeing how the work is received, whether it will still seem disruptive to bring psychoanalytic language and interpretation into a gallery context, and how far the questions asked by critics in the 1930s and 1940s remain relevant, whether the paintings and drawings should be regarded as art or as therapy, for instance.”

‘A Tale of Mother’s Bones: Grace Pailthorpe, Reuben Mednikoff and the Birth of Psychorealism’ runs at the De La Warr Pavilion from 6 October 2018 – 20 January 2019, and Camden Arts Centre from 12 April – 23 June 2019. It is curated by Dr Hope Wolf, Senior Lecturer in Modernism at the University of Sussex with Rosie Cooper, Head of Exhibitions at the De La Warr Pavilion, Martin Clark, Director of Camden Arts Centre, and Gina Buenfeld, Curator at Camden Arts Centre.

Entry to the De La Warr Pavilion is free and it is open seven days a week.