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  • Writer's pictureLianne Jarrett

Musings from Pallant House

I always enjoy visiting Pallant House Gallery – it’s one of my favourites. Modern British paintings are thoughtfully displayed in the elegant Georgian town house, a perfect backdrop for these works. This building, and the extension designed in association with Norman St John Wilson, also provides space for outstanding temporary exhibitions. I try to see them all.

Most recently, I saw “Radical Women: Jessica Dismorr and her contemporaries”, an illuminating show highlighting the work of Dismorr (the first exhibition of her paintings in a museum) and other mainly little known, politically aware women artists working in the first part of the Twentieth Century. Half way through, I was thrilled to come across three early lithographs by Pearl (‘Polly’) Binder, made in the 1930s, when she depicted life in the East End, where she was living at the time.

Above left: Jessica Dismorr 'Porttrait of a Young Girl' 1913,oil, Roubaix, La Piscine, originally bought by Clive Bell. Above right: Pearl Binder 'Blackwall Tunnel, Limehouse', 1932, lithograph, V&A

I knew Polly very well, in her later years, and her husband Lord Elwyn Jones (a former Labour Lord Chancellor). She led an incredible life and was always interested in young people. Amongst her achievements, Polly was a major contributor to early children’s television, travelled extensively (often by cargo boat and train) researching the costume of indigenous peoples, and even writing the history of the Pearly Kings and Queens. In an obituary, she was called a bohemian in the heart of the Establishment. I organised a retrospective of her work at Brighton Museum and she gave me two of her pictures, of which I am very fond.

Above: Polly, in later life

On my latest visit to Pallant House Gallery, I was also introduced to the work of American artist Jann Haworth (former wife of Peter Blake) in another temporary exhibition. I was intrigued by her cloth sculptures and the mural “Work in Progress” created with her daughter, Liberty, and members of their community. It celebrates outstanding women who have been catalysts for change through the centuries - some celebrated, some no longer remembered.

Above right: Jann Haworth 'Old Lady II', 1965, mixed media, The Mayor Gallery, London. Above left: Jann Haworth and Liberty Blake detail of 'Work in Progress'

I’ve long been fascinated by the shapes and forms of industrial objects and landscapes, so I found the small centenary celebration of Prunella Clough most interesting as it showed how these elements, subjects of her earlier works, evolved into her later abstracts.

Above: Prunella Clough 'Disused Landscape', 1999, oil, Wilson Gift through the Art Fund

For more information about Pallant House Gallery, see their website

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