Art of the Wild: Gertrude Hermes and the Natural World
7th February 2020 - 4th May 2020
A stunning art exhibition, celebrating Gertrude Hermes’ lifelong fascination with the natural world, finds the perfect backdrop at the Museum
‘We all sensed there was something special about Gertie and her relations with animals, trees, plants, insects. She watched them so intently – seemed more finely tuned to all living things than most of us. … Hers was a gentle wildness.’ Gertrude Hermes’ sister May
One of the most imaginative and talented wood engravers of her generation, Gertrude Hermes OBE RA (1901–1983) drew much of her inspiration from nature, revealing a restless curiosity about the world around her, including the River Thames.
An innovative sculptor, printmaker and teacher, Hermes was trained by the unconventional British modernist artist Leon Underwood (1890-1975), who encouraged her to capture forms in the natural world with a rapidly flowing line.
Hermes’ prints evoke the pleasures but also the strange and sinister elements of water, plants and animals. Water is the key element in Hermes’ world; a keen swimmer and diver, she revelled in the physical sensations and abstract patterns of water. Using this inspiration from the natural world, she transformed her direct, and often scientific, observations of her surroundings into intricate wood engravings, large-scale linocuts and sculptures.
Drawing on the rich collections of the Ashmolean Museum, this temporary exhibition at the River & Rowing Museum demonstrates Hermes’ enduring fascination with the natural world – from her Jazz Age bird, fish and flower prints to her monumental coloured linocuts of the 1950s. On display will be 40 wood engravings, woodblocks, linoprints and original drawings, including sketchbooks, which show the creative evolution of Hermes’ work, from preliminary sketch and carved woodblock through to the final print.
By exploring the work of one of the most important, but little-known, British female artists of the 20th century, this exhibition will uncover the roots of Hermes’ fertile creative imagination and introduce her exceptional work to a new audience. The Museum will bring her work to life with a selection of adult events and talks, such as ‘Gertrude Hermes: Black and White Boutis’, expanding on the techniques she used and highlighting influences on her work.
This exhibition has been Organised by the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford.
Gertrude Hermes: The Swimmers
© The Estate of Gertrude Hermes
© The Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford