Exhibition of lost paintings by ‘overlooked’ female artists

09 January 2024

A new exhibition of works by two British female artists ‘lost’ to history is about to open at the Borough Road gallery of London South Bank University (LSBU).

The exhibition features 16 works by artists Dorothy Mead and Edna Mann, whose achievements its curator says have been erased over time.

It will showcase a range of their important but little-known art from the mid-twentieth century.

“I think that these artists are sadly overlooked,” said curator Theresa Kneppers. “This is a unique opportunity to give them their due by having a critical look at these women who have very rarely been recognised as artists in their own right.” 

Londoner Dorothy Mead never had a solo show in her lifetime, despite contemporary praise for her paintings and being included alongside David Hockney in a 1964 Arts Council exhibition named ‘Six Young Painters’.

She believed her difficulty establishing her reputation for her work, which blended abstract and representation, was due to her gender.

Described as a confident headstrong feminist, Mead is said to have remarked that if she had changed her name to George, she would have found it much easier to sell her work. 

“The relative neglect Mead suffered in her lifetime undoubtedly owes something to then prevalent attitudes towards women as creators at the time,” Kneppers added. 

She died in 1975 aged just 46. 

Born in east London in 1926, Dorothy Mann was an artist, teacher and mother, described by her siblings as brave and vivacious. 

Her work included charcoal renderings of iconic buildings, some likely drawn from sitting on the roof of LSBU’s Borough Road building in Elephant and Castle.  

After becoming a mother her artistic career became somewhat sidelined, but she maintained a creative perspective throughout her life until her death in 1985. 

Both Mead and Mann attended LSBU in the 1940s when it was known as the Borough Polytechnic.

The pair are two of the few female artists who attended the classes of artist-educator David Bomberg and were part of the Borough Group artists’ collective.

The works on display are part of LSBU’s Sarah Rose collection of works by Bomberg and his pupils.

The exhibition will run Tuesday to Friday from January 19 to March 29 2024.