Jacqueline Lamba: 60 Years of Surrealist Painting at Weinstein Gallery
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Weinstein Gallery | 444 Clementina St., San Francisco, CA
Submitted by the Event Organizer
Weinstein Gallery kicks off its 30th anniversary season with Jacqueline Lamba – Painter, a retrospective featuring over forty paintings and works on paper created from 1927 – 1988. This exhibition marks Lamba’s first gallery exhibition in the United States in seventy-four years.
Lamba showed her paintings, drawings, and objects in almost all of the significant surrealism exhibitions of the 1930s. She was also included in Peggy Guggenheim’s groundbreaking 31 Women exhibition at the Art of the Century in 1941, had a solo exhibition at Norlyst Gallery in 1944, and was featured with her second husband, David Hare at the San Francisco Museum of Art (now SFMOMA) in 1946. In 1967, she had a retrospective at the Museé Picasso in Antibes, with Picasso himself initiating the event. Despite six decades of making and exhibiting artwork, Lamba remains less well-known as an artist than her dear friends Dora Maar, Claude Cahun, and Frida Kahlo. Instead, she is primarily remembered in history as the second wife of André Breton and the “scandalous beauty” that inspired him to write Mad Love.
Lamba refused to be relegated to the role of muse or confined by traditional expectations of wife or mother. Her need to paint was insatiable, and recognition of that need was her only desire. Independent, outspoken, and headstrong, she sometimes got in the way of what she sought. She was known to destroy many of her paintings. In her final years, she lived a solitary, monastic life working on her art daily until she could no longer hold a pencil. She once wrote to a friend, “If you hear I am no longer painting, it is because I have died.”
In the current tidal wave of attention on women artists, particularly those involved with Surrealism, Lamba is being reconsidered in the canon for her importance and contributions with inclusion in several recent museum exhibitions, including In Wonderland -The Surrealist Adventures of Artists in Mexico and the United States at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Fantastic Women. Surreal Worlds from Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo at the Schirn Kunsthalle, and in Enchanted Modernity: Surrealism and Magic at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Venice, and the Museum Barberini, Potsdam. Additionally, the first monograph on the artist, published by the gallery and written by respected scholar Dr. Salomon Grimberg, will be released later this year.
Lamba embodied the struggle to be a painter. This retrospective hopes to bring light to Lamba’s long career and the oeuvre that has seldom been seen until now.
ABOUT JACQUELINE LAMBA
Orphaned as a teenager while studying at the school for decorative arts, Jacqueline Lamba supported herself by creating designs for department stores and performing as a nude aquatic dancer. Intelligent and well-read, her cousin recommended she read some works by André Breton, the upstart leader of the Surrealist movement. Feeling deeply connected to his writings, she declined an offer of introduction from her friend Dora Maar. Instead, she planned an “accidental meeting,” which would become the poetic accounting of their first night together. She would forever be known as the “scandalous beauty” of Breton’s most famous work, Mad Love.
Unfortunately, Lamba’s expectations to embrace Breton and Surrealism while being her own independent artist were met with Breton’s expectations of her duties as a wife, mother, and muse. Nevertheless, she participated in the surrealist exhibition of the 1930s, though sometimes her works were displayed without her name, and she was mostly referred to as the “wife of.”
Exiled to New York during the war, Lamba became involved with the American artist David Hare who had been asked to work with Breton as an editor on VVV magazine. Lamba had been asked to translate as she spoke English, and Breton would not. Hare was smitten, and their affair would end the Lamba/ Breton marriage.
With Hare, Lamba enjoyed the freedom and finances to paint again full-time. Hare introduced her to the Native Americans of the Southwest, and their objects, art, and connection to nature would greatly influence her. Unfortunately, after the birth of their son, she was forced to face Hare’s repeated infidelities and left him to return to France.
Now without the responsibilities of men or children, these later years led to her mature work. Inspired by her surroundings in the city and countryside, she dedicated herself to a lifelong inquiry into the exploration and embodiment of light with detailed compositions of Paris and airy exaltation of the landscape, sky, and water.
She succumbed to various health issues and died at the age of 88.
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