Art by two leading figures of British modernism to be exhibited together for the first time in new Birkenhead exhibition

Two key figures of the British modernist movement will have their work exhibited side-by-side for the first time in a new exhibition at Birkenhead’s Williamson Art Gallery & Museum.

Kathleen Guthrie and John Cecil Stephenson were married from 1942 until Stephenson’s death in 1965. Though both were established and successful artists prior to their marriage, this exhibition explores the development of their individual styles under each other’s influence.

Kathleen Guthrie (1905-1981) exhibited widely from the 1930s onwards. Following her marriage to Stephenson in 1942 her work moved increasingly towards abstraction.

Guthrie also wrote and illustrated children’s books, most notably The Magic Button to the Moon which was published in 1958, and during the 1960s impressed with her work in silk screen printing.

Stephenson (1889-1965) took on Walter Sickert’s studio at 6 Mall Studios, Hampstead in 1919, where he was later joined by Herbert Read, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. From 1922 until 1955 he was Head of Art at the Northern Polytechnic on Holloway Road.

Stephenson began making his predominantly abstract work in the 1930s, exhibiting widely – though during the Second World War he returned to figurative work making paintings of the Blitz.

A series of strokes Stephenson suffered in 1958 left him unable to move or talk. Partly for this reason he is today less well-known than many of his contemporaries, despite being a key figure in the development of abstract art in Britain.

Stephenson’s work was re-visited by Guthrie in her screen prints of his paintings, including Egg Tempera 1936 and Egg Tempera 1937.

The exhibition is at the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Slatey Road, Birkenhead and runs from  25 January to 8 April 2023 in Galleries 4 & 5. For full visiting information check the Visit Us  page.

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