The Fine Art Society presents Gluck

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Tim Firmager
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Hannah Gluckstein (born into the family of the co-founder of J. Lyons & Co) was one of the most mercurial and rebellious artists of her day. Known for her rebelliousness, a retrospective of the British painter will be presented at The Fine Art Society.

Early Years of Gluck

By the age of 23, Hannah Gluckstein had begun to call herself Gluck (“no prefix, suffix, or quotes”), had adopted men’s clothing, cropped her hair, and begun to smoke a pipe. Fiercely individual, Gluck identified with no artistic school or movement and showed her work only in solo exhibitions, where it was displayed in a special frame she invented and patented. ‘The Gluck Frame’ had a three-tiered design and was painted or papered to match the wall on which it was hung, giving the illusion that the painting was part of the architecture of the room. It was exhibited at British Art in Industry exhibitions and became an integral part of Modernist and Art Deco interiors of the 1930s.

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After art school, she moved to Lamorna, West Cornwall, where the Newlyn School artists were based. She befriended Elizabeth and Stanhope Forbes, Alfred Munnings and Laura Knight. Inspired by the natural light and sweeping Cornish landscapes, she began to paint en plein air, producing many of her best landscapes and genre scenes there throughout her career.

Gluck in the London art scene

In the 1920s and 30s, Gluck made her move onto the London art scene, where she gained recognition for her portraits of glamorous women and captivating floral still lifes. These highly stylised works were inspired by the floral arrangements of Constance Spry, a fashionable society florist and the artist’s one time lover. Through Spry, she gained access to London’s leading socialites, painting the portraits of Baroness Molly Mount Temple, costume designer Margaret Watts (Portrait of Miss Margaret Watts, 1932) and popular novelist Susan Ertz.

One of Gluck’s best-known paintings, Medallion (1937), is a dual portrait of Gluck and Gluck’s lover, the American socialite, Nesta Obermer, inspired by a night at the opera in 1936.
According to Gluck’s biographer, Diana Souhami, “They sat in the third row and she felt the intensity of the music fused them into one person and matched their love.” Referred to by Gluck as the “YouWe” picture, Medallion was later used as the cover of a Virago Press edition of ‘The Well of Loneliness’.

The Fine Art Society

The Fine Art Society and Gluck have a long history together since her first exhibition at the gallery in 1926, followed by two more in 1932 and 1937, then again – after a thirty six-year hiatus from exhibiting in the gallery – in 1973. The Fine Art Society is pleased to present a major retrospective of the British painter (1895-1978), featuring 32 works including her most significant painting, Medallion (1937), the exhibition will explore the fascinating life, work and legacy of a pioneering artist of her generation.

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This exhibition runs concurrently with two other of work by women artists at the Fine Art Society. In Gallery 2, a group of contemporary women artists have been invited to respond to Gluck’s legacy with their own original works. In Gallery 3, an exhibition of Modern British Women will explore the work of both celebrated and lesser-known artists working throughout the twentieth century.

The Fine Art Society is located at 148 New Bond Street, London, W1S 2JT.

Call +44 (0) 20 7629 5116 or visit for more information.

About Tim Firmager

Tim divides his time being a Digital Consultant in The City and as a food and travel writer across the globe. When he's not working as one of the Lifestyle Editors here at Vada, he's planning his next trip, or on the lookout for the latest food crazes or unusual foods in London's markets.