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Emmy Bridgwater

English Surrealist Painter and Poet

Emmy Bridgwater Photo
Movement: Surrealism

Born: November 10, 1906 - Birmingham, United Kingdom

Died: March 13, 1999 - Solihull, United Kingdom


Summary of Emmy Bridgwater

The work of Emmy Bridgwater - her paintings, drawings, collage, and poetry - is throughout infused with melancholy and a macabre interest in the degenerative progression of life. As a relative enigma in her early years as an artist, in 1936 she attended The International Surrealist Exhibition in London and henceforth, for the following two decades became a fixture in the art world. The exhibition not only provided a great source of inspiration, but also introduced other artists into Bridgwater's life who would become lifelong friends, including Conroy Maddox and Edith Rimmington. Dealing with pain, and recognizing that emotional pain can be as acute and de-habilitating as physical affliction are themes that run throughout the artist's career. As such she must wear "necessary bandages", not wounded in the flesh, but instead in heart and mind. It is as though Bridgwater carries an inherent regret, which likely surrounds the fact that her career was fragmented and cut short by the need to sacrifice art to the care of her family.

Key Ideas

Bridgwater was an automatist, meaning that she practiced a reduction of conscious control when making art in the hope to expose hidden and unconscious aspects of her personality. She was influenced less by the intricate carefully painted dreamscapes of René Magritte and Salvador Dali, and more by the urgent and uncontrolled writhing line of André Masson. Indeed, she shared fellow artist, Ithell Colquhoun's belief that automatism is the best means to capture the phenomena of the natural world in a constant state of flux and metamorphic transformation.
Birds recur in almost all of Bridgwater's imagery, as they also often do in the work of other female Surrealists and particularly in that of Leonora Carrington, Eileen Agar, and Edith Rimmington. The bird taking flight at this moment in history represents a collective desire to be free from patriarchal tethers and to unite the opposites realms of heaven and earth; the bird is an iconic and revealing symbol of Surrealism.
Significantly, Bridgwater was individually responsible for establishing better ties between the two strands of the Surrealist Group in England, that of the Birmingham and the London contingents. She was a member of both groups and instead of upholding animosity like many others she divided her time, talents, and loyalty between both.
Bridgwater's poetry is generally apocalyptic and nihilistic in tone, with lots of symbolism of death and endings. There is a sense, as upheld by the dissident Surrealists headed by Georges Bataille, that Bridgwater successfully considers and illustrates recurring frustrations and nightmares that plague the human condition. She does so in contrast to displaying the lofty ideals and dreams that drive us, as were the focus of André Breton and his followers.
Emmy Bridgwater Photo

Emmy Bridgwater was born in Edgbaston, a district of Birmingham situated in the midlands of England. Her father was a chartered accountant and her mother a practicing Methodist. She was the couple's third and youngest daughter and appeared to enjoy a relatively comfortable middle-class childhood.

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