Surrealist Women: Eileen Agar

Photograph of Eileen Agar nude by Photographer Unknown
Eileen Forrester Agar

As a young girl the British surrealist Eileen Agar travelled from her birthplace of Buenos Aires to England on a luxury liner accompanied by a cow and an orchestra. Her wealthy American mother believed that milk and music were essential in a child’s development and therefore had made the necessary arrangements so that she wasn’t deprived of them on the long ocean voyage.

After such a childhood it is no surprise that Eileen Agar belonged to the Surrealist movement. She had first met Andre Breton with her future husband, the Hungarian Jewish writer Joseph Bard in Paris in 1928 and was a member of the London Group from 1934.She was the only British woman artist to be featured in the International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries in 1936 ( see John Deth) where she had a total of three paintings and five objects displayed. She had a passionate affair with the Surrealist artist Paul Nash and holidayed with Picasso, Dora Maar, Roland Penrose, Lee Miller (who photographed her several times, see Surrealist Women: Lee Miller), Nusch Eluard  and the poet Paul Eluard, with whom she had a brief and intense fling with.

As well as being a painter, Agar experimented successfully with collages, ready-made and found objects; and was also a  photographer, hat-maker and a writer. She exhibited with the Surrealists in New York, Amsterdam and Tokyo as well as having numerous one-women shows in the U.K. She published her autobiography A Look At My Life at the age of 89 in 1988. She died in 1991 at the age of 91.

Below is her masterpiece The Autobiography Of An Embryo from 1933-1934, which was acquired by the Tate Gallery for its permanent collection in 1989.

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47 thoughts on “Surrealist Women: Eileen Agar

    1. I love that anecdote. As she herself commented, the surrealist women were all very smart, not messy bohemians. The painting is marvellous as is a lot of her collages. Hopefully this post is as good as my other posts in the series.

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      1. No, not today. Maybe tomorrow, maybe. Thank you for asking. I have something almost ready to go. You know me, dark emotions, so of course no white picket fences or unicorns, that entire bit. WP has changed up their format again, so I have to put the music in the 1st comment, because I want my image in the reader. So, eventually I will have to edit all my posts. I mean really who want to see a YouTube in the reader? What in the world were the powers that be thinking? Hmm…

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      2. Hmmm who would. Does this affect my posts, I notice that the painting was in the reader as opposed to the photograph. Hopefully it wouldn’t be just text. I look forward to it. Did you ever watch the grim adventures of billy and Mandy? Probably not as it is a children’s cartoon. Mandy didn’t like unicorns at all.

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      3. Perhaps, did you expect the photograph to be in the reader? It seems as things are backwards. I notified the forum, have yet to hear anything. I would imagine this request would be considered a nuisance thing for them. No, I missed those adventures. Thank you for your kind words. By the way, we’ve had a tremendous amount of rain, well for us, the cats adore it, and sleep quite well. I think they like the sound.

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      4. There were excellent. Mandy and Billy had won a bet with the Grim Reaper (who was Jamaican) and he tagged along with them. Mandy was a little girl who wore pink and had a bow in her hair but never smiled and was sarcastic and very intelligent. She didn’t like unicorns. At the beginning of each episode she would say something usually quite cynical, then the captions would roll. Once it was Do what thou will, that shall be the whole of the law. Then the episode would begin and they went it the underworld or Valhalla or unicorn land. Billy was a moron. It is usually raining here but today was clear. Don’t forget I’m the King of the Cats.

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  1. The photo is fantastic (the filmy thing she is wearing makes for a cool effect) and the painting more so. I believe I might wear a hat designed by Eileen. If I was inclined to wear a hat, that is… By the way, I featured a Paul Nash painting to accompany a poem I wrote called Tales of War. The painting was The Ypres Salient at Night. This must have been right before we met.

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      1. It is a marvelous story. How would you like to be the guy milking a cow aboard an ocean going ship? Perhaps it was one of the musicians playing double duty! 😀 I want you to read that poem of mine but I’m afraid to add the link for fear I’ll start going to spam again!

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      2. It came through. But WP is being weird today. Anyway, thank you. Yes, I was really pulled in by the painting. I like his work, so I look forward to reading your post about him. Thank you.

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      3. You are… that would work for next week. I still have to do the munch post but I have a good idea of what I am going to write, if I have any problems getting it to you by Thursday I will tell you tomorrow. Then Paul Nash a week Thursday.

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      4. I think they could afford some one just to milk the cow without doing double duty. I am thinking about a little girl drinking her milk at breakfast while a full orchestra plays her a bit of Beethoven or Mozart

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