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Edith Rimmington

British Painter, Photographer, Poet

Edith Rimmington Photo
Movements and Styles: Surrealism, Modern Photography

Born: 1902 - Leicester, England

Died: 1986 - Bexhill, Sussex in England

"As fantasy in the claws of the poet is released by the broken arm it becomes imprisoned in the ossiferous callous wherein lice build themselves a tomb in which to escape the magic of the marvellous."

Summary of Edith Rimmington

Edith Rimmington had a curious mind and a boundless imagination and as such became a highly respected and central member of the British Surrealist Group. Although less well known than its Parisian equivalent, Surrealists based in London and Birmingham aspired to the same principles, tirelessly investigating dreams and the subconscious. Indeed, from the beginning to the end of her career, Rimmington was profoundly influenced by Salvador Dalí. Having first encountered Dalí in 1936 at the International Exhibition of Surrealism, the image of the diving suit that the Spanish artist had worn to the opening then appeared repeatedly in Rimmington's paintings. Furthermore, Rimmington was attracted to images of the repugnant, as was Dalí, with the themes of death, decay, and re-birth being longstanding concerns for both. Later in life she painted less but continued to write poetry, practice automatic writing, and to take photographs of her natural surroundings. Alongside other artist contemporaries, she settled on the coast of Sussex, making a literal statement about living life on the edge.

Key Ideas

Many works by Rimmington reveal a tendency toward the darker depths of the imagination. She was deeply affected by the shocking images of maimed and wounded soldiers in World War II, and as such many of her works depict dismembered body parts and speak of the utter horrors of war. Steering away from fantasy, her work echoes dissent Surrealist ideology that had been theorised by Georges Bataille and Jacques André-Boiffard.
Indeed, her work often has an anatomical and biological quality of dissection to it. As animals appear as hybrids or in states of transformation, Rimmington makes reference to ideas of mimicry as discussed by the French intellectual Roger Caillois. In this respect her pictures successfully combine two great curiosities: art and science. At times, a work by Rimmington looks like a medical textbook illustration - albeit with a Surrealist twist.
Many of Rimmington's paintings feature claustrophobic interior spaces with unusual perspectives and a repeated checkered-floor motif. This links her work to an international cast of female Surrealists, including and in particular Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington. Similar to the Yin Yang symbol's use of black and white to illustrate seeming contrast, checkered boards reinforce the important Surrealist notion of combining opposites. Furthermore, all three of these artists are drawn to a "she-bird" figure; again uniting the opposite desires to be at once earth and sky bound, and also illustrating a newfound and shared sense of freedom.
In later works when Rimmington focuses predominantly on photography she exposes the specifically British Surrealist interest in merging with the natural environment, and more specifically, with the sea. Dissolving boundaries between the animate and the inanimate, between the rock and the human, and between the sea and the shore, becomes a speciality of Rimmington. This is an interest intimately shared by fellow British Surrealists Ithell Colquhoun, Eileen Agar, and Emmy Bridgewater.
Edith Rimmington Photo

Edith Rimmington was born in 1902 in Leicester, a city in the East Midlands of England. Unfortunately there is very little information available on her childhood.

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