Women of our Century – Paule Vézelay (Notes from BBC programme)

Women of our Century – BBC Iplayer

Series 1: Paule Vézelay

Paule Vezelay was one of the first British artists to explore abstraction. At a time when British society was suspicious of modernism, Vezelay became familiar with the ideas of European modernists and forged a significant place for herself among early abstractionists. In addition to being an important painter and sculptor, Vezelay was an illustrator, writer and textile designer.

(Biography – http://jlwcollection.com/jlwcollection.com/Paule_Vezelay.html)

First transmitted in 1984, Germaine Greer interviews pioneer abstract artist Paule Vézelay.

British painter Vézelay was neglected and ignored by the British art establishment for most of her long life, but she can claim to be Britain’s first abstract artist. She was born Margery Watson-Williams in Bristol in 1892, and changed her name when she went to live and work in Paris in 1926. Her studio was a street away from Picasso’s, and she was part of the group of artists who contributed to the revolution in modern art of the 1920s.

 She has some interesting things to say – Notes from the programme:

Refer to yourself as a man, never refer to myself as a man, although it certainly would been easier if I was a man

Did she do this because she didn’t want sex to come into the equation

Added the e – suggests feminine


What’s important is the work – is it original, well done

Knew exactly what she wanted to do


Didn’t want to be treated as a beginner at the slade



Looking for


Got to do a lot of thinking if you want to do something new. The more you think about it the more it changes

Got to work hard at art to be an artist

Got to be able to control it with your hand

Draw you line – the line must be right before you even draw it


Exactly as you intend it to be


Rhythm of line and mass

Curves – why limit yourself to straight lines

Why limit yourself when can have curves and straight

Suspended line in space – the first

Already formed before knew about their work – influence of artists who came to see


All the young men danced with – were killed in the 1st world war


Think would had a conflict – glad you escaped? (Love marriage)


Nice for women to have babies, most women want babies

Mr right man

Wasn’t in love with ones who asked

Encouraged? Parent’s dad yes



Andre Masson – engaged – declaration of intention – changed mind – painful


It was pleasant,

Who knows his work –?

Hans Arp, who had become a close friend

Great friendship with them both

Influenced each other – yes I think did

Identify with that group – did it help?

Although didn’t discuss it much – work was supposed to do that don’t you see

Why abstract artists keep form – see what others doing, draw or paint because can’t put into words what want to say


Do you think you communicated without words – ‘well it’s easier to write, not easy to choose, but to drawing takes time to get it exactly right


Paul Nash

In order to praise has to say nasty things about unnamed artists


Problem that family is your responsibility


After the war – able to pick up where left off

50 years old – Paris

Abstraction not understood in Britain


What u find pleasing in their lives and form

Directly to the emotions – language appeals directly to emotion


Enough sadness in real life

Joyful happy pleasing

As they used to

Worst thing – GG – book on women and painting ref.


Worst – that he would fall in love with you

Safe – sunk if marries

Can’t make rules about it – doesn’t matter

You don’t think of that in advance

For most married women it phases out

Great mistake for a women to marry if she wants to be an artist

On marriage – women artists – if they marry their work gets phased out because ‘they don’t have the time or energy to take their work seriously’ – how can be expected to succeed with ‘

Often women if they marry, have children, their work inevitably gets phased out, takes a back seat because they ‘Don’t have the time or energy to take their work seriously’

How can I be expected to succeed with ‘One hand in the kitchen, one in the studio’! Gwen John

Concentrated, self-possessed – almost arrogant about painting

Ask about wives of artists who are artists themselves

Sophie Tauber-Arp – How can I be expected to succeed with ‘One hand in the kitchen, one in the studio’

Been greater if hadn’t married – came to see Arp – didn’t come to see her

In the end – she was asked to design for print –

Textiles – feminising women’s art – Issue?

What percentage still got – rather be with it rather than the sake of selling it cheaply – I like my paintings

Faith in yourself – never been shaken

Opinion I value – certain amount of confidence

Happy life? – Don’t know what mean by happy – did what wanted to do – names shit jibs

Satisfied u – up to a point

Beyond? – learn as you go along…



About artbyjaxx

Contemporary British artist, Jacqueline Hammond, is renowned for producing strong, punchy images that are rich in texture and colour. A prolific painter and multidisciplinary artist, she exhibits widely and is commissioned by individual clients, collectors and high profile brands. Jacqueline’s inspiration comes from direct observation: subject matter is plucked from the world encountered every day. Some ideas evolve, others are reactionary. Thought-provoking themes explore today’s society, the media and cultural theory. Whether inspired by the street or the sea, Jacqueline’s work has an edge: her paintings are consistently striking. Her natural disposition is to let the paint dictate the creative process, trusting the medium and her mind’s eye to translate the vision.
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