21 July - 15 September
Private View: 20 July, 6pm
Richard Saltoun Gallery
111 Great Titchfield Street
London W1W 6RY
Richard Saltoun Gallery is pleased to present Franciszka Themerson UBU, an extraordinary solo exhibition of Polish-born artist Franciszka Themerson (1907-1988), and her first with the gallery.
This remarkable exhibition takes us back to the dawn of modernism, and to a play that paved the way for Dada, Surrealism and the "Theatre of the Absurd'. This was Ubu Roi, Alfred Jarry's ground-breaking satirical pantomime, first performed in Paris in 1896, and whose first English edition was published by the Themersons (Franciszka and her writer-husband Stefan) in their avant-garde press, Gaberbocchus, in 1951, illustrated by Franciszka.
After the first performance in Paris, the play, with its absurd violence and cruelty, was banned. Its main character Père Ubu, weak, murderous and ridiculous, has come to epitomise many of the characters that have populated our world since Jarry first placed his King on stage with a toilet brush for his sceptre. The Themersons had been familiar with Jarry's grotesque anti-hero in the 1930s in Poland, but the illustrations that Franciszka drew for the 1951 edition (drawn directly onto the printer's aluminium litho plates), marked the beginning of a lifelong preoccupation with UBU Roi as a subject.
Franciszka was essentially a painter for whom line was the most important element, whether it was drawn, incised with a knife or her fingers, or laid onto the canvas straight from the tube. With Ubu Roi, her work expanded to include masks in painted papier-mâché, stage design and a majestic form of comic strip. The line, and an Ubuesque spirit of grand guignol have continued to dominate her imagery during the greater part of her life. The 13 original papier-mâché masks will be on full display in the exhibition together with comic strip drawings, works on paper, collages and photographs.
A catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition will be available for sale.
Franciszka Themerson (Warsaw 1907 - London, 1988)
Franciszka Themerson's work has been the subject of many important solo exhibitions, includingFranciszka & Stefan Themerson: Books, Camera, Ubu - Camden Arts Centre, London (2016); Art Now: Lightbox, Stefan and Franciszka Themerson - Tate Britain, London (2009); Franciszka Themerson: Unposted Letters - Imperial War Museum, London (1996). There was a seminal solo exhibition of the artist's oeuvre: It all depends on the point of view at Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1975). Her works, including those made in collaboration with her husband, Stefan Themerson, are a part of several notable public collections across Europe, including Tate Gallery; The British Museum; Victoria & Albert Museum; The Arts Council; Art Museum, Belfast; Muzeum Narodowe, Warsaw; Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, and Marionetteatern, Stockholm.