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a word on art

A Celebration of our female artists

In celebration of International Women’s Day we take a look at some of our incredible female artists.


Justine Smith

“Money Map of the World – China” is one of Smith’s most recent works and explores the shifting focuses of global finance and power, capturing the present, whilst also looking towards the future. With a sensitivity to today’s political topography, Smith has shifted the received perception of the global layout, positioning Asia at the centre of the work, dominating the composition with its vibrant red bank notes. Smith plays with the scale of the continents, shrinking America, Europe and Africa and pacing them at the extremity of the world map.


This work takes the artist’s ideas and her approach to currency into the 21st Century and the digital age with her incorporation of Bitcoin code on the background of the world map. The continents float against an iridescent sea of printed code. Bitcoin is a non-state controlled digital currency, created and held electronically and powered by its users. As the sea of Smith’s reinvented global map, the Bitcoin code becomes an international currency spreading, or trading, across different geographies, forming a global currency and posing the question of whether the traditional beauty and patriotic identity of each currency is still needed.


The result is a politically charged, and yet strikingly beautiful map, which provides a powerful image of today’s world. A nuanced comment on the changing world order, rendered in painstaking detail, “Money Map of the World – China” is beautiful and compelling, a colourful collage of profound implications.


Smith has exhibited her work in numerous international galleries and museums and is featured in public museum collections including The British Museum and The British Library.


Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange

Jeanne Selmersheim-Desgrange was born into a highly creative family, in which the women were artists and costume designers, and the men were architects and draftsmen. Following in their footsteps, she began her artistic career in the decorative arts before becoming a painter under Signac’s instruction. Her paintings were highly celebrated and she exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon des Indépendants from 1909.


Selmersheim-Desgrange’s direct talent as an artist may be seen in the distinctive compositions of her brilliant still lifes and landscapes. Her watercolours and oil paintings are executed with a delicate palette of orange, yellow, rose, light blue and green pastel tones. But she also uses greys, which make for glistening opalescent nuances.


Selmersheim-Desgrange spent a great deal of time in the South of France, particularly around St. Tropez, where Signac owned a house called “La Hune” with his wife. In 1913 Signac rented a charming house in Antibes, where he settled with Jeanne shortly before the birth of their daughter Ginette. The relaxed atmosphere, the intense light, the brilliant earthen colors, and azure seas all helped to form Selmersheim-Desgrange’s aesthetic. Life in the South of France was focused around the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, and Selmersheim-Desgrange’s most spectacular works are those composed of view from a balcony looking onto the glistening Mediterranean beyond.


Despite being a skilled and successful artist in her own right, Selmersheim-Desgrange appeared to be contented to stay in the shadows of her husband Paul Signac. Her own work is filled with, and reflects a true feminine sensitivity, in both the colouring and subject matter. Following her death, her work was included in the exhibition entitled “Neo-Impressionism” at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1968, and today Selmersheim-Desgrange’s work is collected internationally.


Yvonne Canu

Yvonne Canu was a Neo-Impressionist, as was Signac and heavily influenced by the work of the Pointillists such as Georges Seurat. Her round brushstrokes of juxtaposed pure colours give the viewer the opportunity of fusing the colours with their own eyes. It works remarkably well in the water and the shaded buildings to the left of the picture.


Born in Morocco in 1921, Canu studied at the École des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. After the Second World War she met Foujita who instructed her in drawing and composition and introduced her to the Impressionists. It was not long before she dedicated herself exclusively to Pointillism and adopted the technique for all of her paintings. She belongs to an interesting trend of French twentieth-century artists who looked to and expanded upon the theories of so-called Divisioniste artists of the late 19th century. Like them she often depicted seascapes, harbors and river scenes.

Yvonne Canu exhibited extensively after the Second World War until her death in 2008.


Clarissa James


Clarissa’s love for drawing and painting was first inspired by a visit to the Watts Gallery near Guilford, an artists’ village dedicated to the work of the Victorian era painter and sculptor George Frederic Watts. She followed this initial impulse by researching drawing techniques in the London museums, where she became particularly interested by the the Pre-Raphelites, and pursued an anatomy course at the University College London Medical School.


In 1997, Clarissa moved to Florence to train at the prestigious Florence Academy of Art, an art teaching institution renowned for its commitment to the academic tradition. From there she went on to spend several summers at the studio of renowned Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum and has since taught both Renaissance and nineteenth-century drawing techniques and the highly skilful technique of silverpoint drawing.


Clarissa is drawn to silence and contemplation and following a trip to the Far East developed a great interest in the simplicity and clarity of Japanese art and design. This combined with her lifelong passions for fabrics, opulent textures and nineteenth-century aesthetic, results in unique paintings which are rich, meditative and calm.


Specific in her craft as an artist, Clarissa grinds her own paints to achieve a more unusual luminosity and texture. Her immaculate use of gold leaf brings a spiritual nature to her work and often her elaborate depictions of birds feathers and fabrics are embellished to create a tapestry or jewel like effect and bring a third-dimension into her oil paintings.


Clarissa's work hangs in private collections in Europe, America, Japan and South Africa. In 2006 she was elected an Associate of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and won the Cornelissen & Son Prize for the most outstanding work in that year’s annual exhibition. In 2009 she was elected to Full Membership of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. In 2011, Clarissa completed a six month residency as a guest painter in Lord Leighton’s Studio at Leighton House Museum, London. Clarissa currently works from her studios in London and Salzburg in Austria.


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