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Recognising Dorothy Mead: the first solo show at Borough Road Gallery

The latest exhibition at Borough Road Gallery, London South Bank University (LSBU), will honour a significant twentieth century artist Dorothy Mead, marking the end of decades of neglect with her first ever solo show in a public gallery - 'Recognising Dorothy Mead: David Bomberg, the Slade and After'.
17 July 2013

This exhibition, which will run from 26 April - 27 July 2013, is the first show the gallery has devoted to a single artist from 'A David Bomberg Legacy - The Sarah Rose Collection', which comprises over 150 works by members of The Borough Group including Dorothy Mead, David Bomberg, Dennis Creffield, Cliff Holden, Edna Mann, and Miles Richmond.

It recognises the work of Dorothy Mead (1928-1975) spanning three decades of paintings from her years working with David Bomberg, and then at the Slade, to her practice as a mature artist from the 1960s onwards. Mead was one of the founding members of The Borough Group, which formed at London South Bank University, then Borough Polytechnic, in the 1940s.

Mead's works are now in public collections including Tate, the British Academy, and the Arts Council Collection, as well as various private collections in the UK and abroad.

She won a number of esteemed prizes while studying at the Slade in the 1950s, and became the first female President of influential artist-run collective The London Group in 1971. From 1958-59 she was also President of the Young Contemporaries (now known as New Contemporaries), the leading UK organisation supporting emergent art practice from British Art Schools. She exhibited alongside David Hockney and Bridget Riley in the 1964 Arts Council England exhibition '6 Young Painters'.

However, despite these accolades, Mead did not reach the publicly visible heights of many of her contemporaries during her lifetime. The only previous solo show for Mead's work was after her death at the commercial Boundary Gallery in 2005.

This lack of recognition during Mead's lifetime is in part due to her gutsy rejection of the traditional teachings of the day. Her meeting with David Bomberg in 1944 led to a lifelong and unswerving belief in his approach to painting, which caused Bomberg to be highly unpopular for most of his career, although he is now recognised as one of the twentieth century's most significant British artists and art teachers.

Mead's determination and commitment to Bomberg's artistic principles, regardless of the career-damaging consequences, led to her leaving the Slade without her diploma as she refused to sit examinations on perspective, which she considered unscientific and un-artistic. These exams were dropped from the Slade's curriculum a few years later.

Sarah Rose is one of the first collectors to recognise the significance of Mead's work in the context of Bomberg's teaching and the collection holds 18 of her works. The exhibition is complemented by works, photos and archival material from the Long Family Estate, The London Group Archive, and UCL Records Office. It has been curated by Rachel Fleming-Mulford, Curator of Borough Road Gallery and Professor Andrew Dewdney, Project Director and Professor of Educational Development at LSBU.

Professor Andrew Dewdney, Project Director of Borough Road Gallery and Professor of Educational Development at LSBU, says: "This exhibition explores the life, works, and influences of a hugely talented twentieth century female artist and teacher. We are grateful to Sarah Rose, whose considerable foresight in collecting this historically overlooked artist now enables this opportunity to begin to address the neglect Mead suffered during her lifetime."

David Redfern, Archivist at The London Group, says: "To be elected into The London Group, especially to be elected Vice President and then first female President in 1971, shows the level of confidence that Dorothy Mead's artist peers had in her and her work at that time.

"We are delighted that this exhibition at Borough Road Gallery will acknowledge Mead's status as an important and underrated twentieth century artist."

To accompany the exhibition, Borough Road Gallery will be running a number of educational talks and special events:

  • Thursday 16 May, 7pm (followed by late opening until 8.30pm)
    'Museums at Night' event - free exhibition tour by writer and art critic Philip Vann
  • Saturday 18 May, 2-3.30pm
    'Adult Learners' Week' event: free 'Introduction to Borough Road Gallery' by Gallery Project Director Professor Andrew Dewdney and Curator Rachel Fleming-Mulford
  • Wednesday 19 June 2013, 7pm
    Free talk by art critic Katy Deepwell.
  • Friday 28 June and Friday 26 July 2013, 6-8pm
    Free late opening for South London Art Map's (SLAM) 'Last Fridays'

Borough Road Gallery and its exhibition, education and events programmes have been funded by a two-year grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The opening hours for Borough Road Gallery are Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 1pm-5pm, and Saturdays 12pm-5pm. The Gallery is based at the University's Southwark campus: 103 Borough Road, London SE1 0AA.