Sculpting Lives: Gertrude Hermes

Season 2, Episode 3,  Nov 16, 2021, 06:00 AM

Gertrude Hermes was one of the most experimental sculptors of the twentieth century. She also changed the way women artists were treated at the Royal Academy forever – a story which had been overlooked until recently.

'She did cause a bit of a revolution in the Royal Academy, which has been only to the good,' Anne Desmet, R.A.

Gertrude Hermes was one of the most experimental sculptors of the twentieth century. She also changed the way women artists were treated at the Royal Academy forever – a story which had been overlooked until recently. Representing Britain at the Paris World Fair of 1937, selected for the British Pavilion at the 1939 Venice Biennale and the subject of a solo retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1967, Hermes’ reputation fell into obscurity and her reforming activism forgotten.
In the 1920s she was part of a group of artists including Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Eileen Agar who were invigorating traditional techniques with a modernist approach. Working not only across sculpture and printmaking, but a variety of decorative and architectural forms such as door knockers and fountains, Hermes imbued her work with a vital energy that often focused on the elemental forces of nature.
This episode takes listeners to where she lived and worked along the Thames tracing her friendships and patrons, her art school networks and studios; and the work that remains around us. We speak to people who knew Hermes, worked with her, as well as contemporary artists who explain the allure of an artist they describe as a 'goddess'.

Image: Gertrude Hermes carving Diver at St Peter’s Square, 1937. Digital image courtesy of Leeds Museums and Galleries © Archive of Sculptors Papers, Leeds Museums _ Galleries Bridgeman Images,