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British Surrealism

Our opening exhibition of 2020 will be the first major show to explore the origins of surrealist art in Britain.

The exhibition explores British Surrealism as a fundamental movement in the history of art over a fascinating 170 year period, pre-dating the international movement’s beginnings in the early 1920s. British Surrealism 1783–1952 will bring together over 30 artists including Eileen Agar, John Armstrong, Francis Bacon, Edward Burra, Leonora Carrington, Henry Moore, Paul Nash and Graham Sutherland, featuring 70 eclectic works, from paintings and sculptures to prints and etchings.

Curated by Dr David Boyd Haycock, the show will be the first British surrealism exhibition in London for over 80 years. Exploring themes of the unconscious and uncanny as well as anarchy, radical politics, war and sexual desire, the exhibition will suggest the roots of surrealism in Britain lie as far back as the work of Henri Fuseli and William Blake, through until the post-war era of the 1950s. Surrealism had an enormous influence on many British artists in the 1930s and '40s following the nightmare of the First World War – which Nash and Moore experienced first-hand.

“Probably the most exciting, transgressive and bizarre art movement of the twentieth century.”

Exhibition curator, Dr David Boyd Haycock

Highlights include Burra’s nightmarish Dancing Skeletons (1934) and Armstrong’s Heaviness of Sleep (1938) depicting a landscape that is both arid and fertile, alongside lesser known yet innovative artists such as Marion Adnams, John Banting, Sam Haile, Conroy Maddox, Reuben Mednikoff and Grace Pailthorpe. 

“Visitors will be invited to embark on their own adventures into the illogical through some spectacular loans and inventive exhibition design; it is not to be missed.”

Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Sackler Director, Jennifer Scott

Images: Sam Haile, Woman and Suspended Man (1939) © Manchester Art Gallery / Bridgeman Images; Marion Adnams, L'infante égarée (1944) Photo: Manchester Art Gallery / Bridgeman Images 


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Event details

Start date
26 February 2020
End date
17 May 2020
Tickets to be announced