[This is a report on Gluck: Art and Identity. It is a combined version of the version published in the Brighton and Hove Independent on December 7, 2017 (a web version can be seen here: chichester.co.uk/news/gluck-art-and-identity-opens-in-brighton-1-8278657), and in the Mid Sussex Times on the same day (a web version can be seen here: worthingherald.co.uk/news/gluck-life-and-identity-of-steyning-artist-explored-in-exhibition-1-8279028. A review will follow after it has been published in etc magazine.]
The world’s first exhibition to explore both the life and artwork of Gluck, a 20th century artist who worked in Steyning, has opened at Brighton Museum.
Gluck: Art and Identity, which will be open until March 11, showcases the artist born Hannah Gluckstein (1895-1978), who went on to be recognised as a trailblazer of gender fluidity.
Not only known for her distinctive style, which incorporated men’s tailoring and barber-cut short hair, Gluck was a well received artist who produced paintings of portraits, flowers and landscapes.
This showcase, which brings together 30 rarely seen artworks, also exhibits extensive personal ephemera such as love letters, personal photographs, and press clippings.
Martin Pel, curator of Fashion at Brighton Museum, said: “Gluck’s artistic significance has arguably been obscured in the last 50 years by the artist’s role as a figurehead and pioneer of LGBTQ lives. So with this exhibition we were keen to survey both Gluck’s personal narrative and the significance of the artworks, within the history of 20th century British art.”
Exhibited paintings, which are largely portraits and floral scenes, include Lilies (1932-6), Credo (Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light) (1970-3), and The Punt (1937), which shows Gluck with lover Nesta Obermer. The artist has a strong connection to the area:
in 1944 Gluck moved to Steyning, and lived there with partner Edith Shackleton Heald until dying in 1978. During the many years Gluck spent at her home in Steyning, Chantry House, the artist created several works, including a portrait of young boy Christopher Stuart Clarke.
An archive of ephemera was donated by the artist to nearby Brighton and Hove’s city collections a year before she died. This assortment of items, which includes accessories, clothing, letters and photographs, was used to inform what the curators of Gluck: Art and Identity call the exhibition’s ‘forensic approach’.
Jeffrey Horsley, exhibition-maker and post-doctoral research fellow at London College of Fashion’s Centre for Fashion Curation, said: “Gluck: Art and Identity will be an exhibition as biography, celebrating Gluck’s work and dressed appearance using innovative techniques to reflect the curators’ explorations into the artist’s life story. But unlike conventional biographies the exhibition will reveal the dead ends, contradictions, unanswered questions and absent evidence they faced as they delved into Gluck’s past. This approach will also allow visitors to trace a path through Gluck’s life led by their own personal interests, rather than following a definitive narrative line, and reveal a fascinating story interweaving the personal and the professional.”
Gluck: Art and Identity was co-curated by Amy de la Haye, Professor of Dress History at London College of Fashion, UAL. The team behind the exhibition worked with The Fine Art Society, Gluck’s gallery on London’s Bond Street.
Find out more at brightonmuseums.org.uk/gluck.