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British Surrealism

Due to current circumstances it has not been possible to extend our acclaimed British Surrealism exhibition. However, we have made a number of resources available for free online to help you explore the show. You can find links further down on this page. For more information, read an update from our Director here

This major exhibition marked 100 years since the birth of surrealism, championing the British artists that contributed to an iconic movement with over 70 eclectic works from 42 artists including Leonora Carrington, Francis Bacon, Henry Moore and Paul Nash as well as lesser known figures Marion Adnams, Conroy Maddox, Reuben Mednikoff and Grace Pailthorpe.

"Who needs reality?" ★★★★ Time Out

"A Pythonesque celebration of British eccentricity" The Times

Embark on a journey into the unexpected, with innovative design and rooms that reject order and chronology to evoke surrealism’s playful and provocative side. Explore themes of dreams and the subconscious, the irrational and impossible, politics, sex and desire, with highlights such as Edward Burra’s nightmarish Dancing Skeletons (1934), John Armstrong’s Heaviness of Sleep (1938) and Conroy Maddox’s disorientating The Lesson (1938). The exhibition also features rare edition books and objects, reaching back to the works of William Blake, Henri Fuseli and Lewis Carroll. Curated by Dr David Boyd Haycock, British Surrealism is the first exhibition to trace the roots of surrealism back to 1620, through supporting archive material.

Surrealism was born out of the uncertainty of a post-war world, predicting the dawning of a new age. In 2020, we invite audiences to rediscover the relevance of these unnerving and inspiring works. 

Surreal Resources

Listen to the exhibition audioguide for free below

Watch an online talk and Q&A from curator David Boyd Haycock

Watch our series of Behind the Curtain films on YouTube, each exploring one of the key works in the exhibition.

Buy the exhibition catalogue (new special price of £14)

Images: Conroy Maddox, The Lesson (detail) 1938, © Christie’s Images Limited, Given with the kind permission of the artist’s daughter; Leonora Carrington, The Pomps of the Subsoil (detail)1947 © Estate of Leonora Carrington / ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019, UEA 28. Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia. Photographer: James Austin; John Bigge, Composition (detail) 1936, Photo: Ferens Art Gallery: Hull Museums, © The Estate of John Bigge. 


Official Paint Partner:

Supported by The Michael Marks Charitable Trust

Supported by The Daniel Katz Gallery, London