Dora Holzhandler: Vibrant new exhibition from 82 year-old national treasure

Dora HolzhandlerIt seems that the older Dora Holzhandler becomes, the more vibrant and absorbing her work. Goldmark Art Gallery is very proud to announce the charismatic octogenarian’s forthcoming exhibition which runs from 12 March to 12 April 2011. Marvellous new oils and watercolours alongside older works will showcase the artist’s “naïve”, richly decorative style of painting which has courted controversy in some circles (her 1971 portrait of the Queen), whilst earning her legions of fans over the decades. You may not know her name, but you will certainly recognise her work.

At the celebrated Anglo-French Art Centre in London’s St John’s Wood in the late 1940s, leading British abstract artist Victor Pasmore described one of her pictures as ‘the perfect painting’; fast forward sixty years and she can count as her fans (and collectors) celebrated contemporary figures such as Edna O’Brien, Maureen Lipman and Jack Dee. It is perhaps her ability to capture the joys of everyday life with such subtle, sparklingly innocent humour that has earned her such devoted attention.

Similarly, her work is profound in its power to evoke the blissful essence of love, a consistent theme - between lovers, friends, a family sitting down to a meal, a mother and her new-born baby. She can certainly draw on her own experiences; her marriage to dashing fellow artist George Swinford in 1950 remains as strong as ever sixty years on, whilst motherhood and becoming a grandmother and great-grandmother has affected her work deeply Dora draws inspiration from both the mundane and the mystical aspects of Jewish life with palpable tenderness. Her family emigrated from Warsaw via France to finally settle in Dalston, London in 1934. Her beloved maternal grandfather who remained in Paris was killed at Auschwitz. Since the 1950s, her love of Buddhism has strongly influenced her painting both in subject matter, symbolism and artistic traditions. An audience with the Dalai Lama after a long trek to Dharamsala in 2004, remains one of the most significant moments in her life. So all-encompassing is her work, art historian Sister Wendy Beckett has been a devoted supporter for many years.

Dora HolzhandlerDora Holzhandler remains a warmly original, independent person, with a radically questioning mind. Eschewing traditional paths, she forged a highly successful career amongst a mid-century male-dominated art world - admired by leading British painters such as Cecil Collins and Josef Herman - sticking resolutely to her distinctive painting style, early on supporting herself as an artist’s model, and on occasion even entertaining the troops as a Burlesque dancer! She was in tune with the mystically-orientated hippy movement in the 60s, and particularly with the American Beat poets, and was fascinated by those writing about and exploring expanding consciousness.

That Dora Holzhandler continues to command attention in the art world at 82 is a testament to her tenacity, but also to her widespread appeal across all ages. She is a wonderfully original pattern-maker, whose captivating figurative scenes of familial love or gentle eroticism are regularly reproduced in the media and in publications throughout the world. She has donated her charming life-affirming paintings to UNICEF for their greetings cards and diaries for many years. This new exhibition at the Goldmark Gallery celebrates the unique talents of a national treasure whose timeless paintings tell us as much about modern life today as they have done over the last 60 years.

Oil Paintings and Watercolours,
Goldmark Gallery:
26 March – 22 April 2011

Free entry. Goldmark Gallery, Uppingham, Rutland.
01572 821 424.
Open Mon to Sat 9.30-5.30, Sun and Bank Holidays 2.30-5.30