A detail of the Praxitella painting by Wyndham Lewis

Things Left Unsaid: Percy Wyndham Lewis, Iris Barry, Helen Saunders and the story of Praxitella


22 June 2023 - 05 November 2023

Venue Leeds Art Gallery

Tags Adult, Display, Young People,

Praxitella is one of the most iconic and enigmatic portraits from the early part of the 20th century. At the time he painted it, Wyndham Lewis was arguably the most important modernist painter working in England.

His endeavour to create a new avant-garde language for art had collapsed during the First World War and in the post-war world, his search for a new style and way of working was an uphill struggle. He claimed that it took him the strength of 24 water-buffalo to complete Praxitella, searching for a new style that would best take on the anxieties present in post-war society and connect avant-garde art with a mass-audience.

It’s only recently that the painting has revealed its hidden underside. This exhibition explores the conservation study and its findings and in the adjacent room, the display looks at the wider context that surround the making of the painting, and sets out to articulate aspects of the voices of other artists involved in its making. Underlying it is the question, how does further knowledge about the painting’s making permit a better understanding of its meaning?


Image: Percy Wyndham Lewis: Praxitella (detail), 1921, oil on canvas, Leeds Museums and Galleries (gift of the Contemporary Art Society, 1945). © The Artist’s Estate. All Rights Reserved 2013 / Bridgeman Art Library


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