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Herstory review – a surprising, alarming odyssey through art by women

For a long time, a painting by Jessica Etchells hung in Rochdale Art Gallery was presumed to have been painted by her brother, artist and architect Frederick Etchells. Jessica, born in Stockport in 1892, had studied at art school, moved to London and worked both for Roger Fry’s Omega Workshop and, later, Wyndham Lewis’s Rebel Art Centre. It was only in 1980 that the painting was identified as being her work. Now, this lowering still life hangs next to two works by the American artist Sherrie Levine – one is a photograph titled Untitled (After Walker Evans), the other a drawing “After” Henri Matisse. The Matisse is a direct, watercolour copy of a Matisse drawing, while Levine’s photograph reproduces a famous Walker Evans, rephotographed by Levine from a catalogue of the late photographer’s work.

Levine’s appropriations of Matisse and Evans are plays on authorship and originality, and on the supposed singular vision of the male artist. There is something poignant about the juxtaposition of Levine and Etchells. There’s a lesson here, retold and expanded in Herstory, an exhibition of work, all by women artists, combining loans to Rochdale by the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo collection in Turin, and works from the museum’s own collection. Read more

2018-10-23T20:58:06+00:00