Curator’s Talk: A Tale of Mother’s Bones

A Tale of Mother's Bones, showing across both Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange in Penzance
Image: The Five Firemen (11 June – 7) 1938, by Grace Pailthorpe

19 Oct 2019

11:00 — 12:00

The Exchange


Curator Dr Hope Wolf will talk about the lives and work of Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff.

Free with admission, all welcome.

An exhibition of paintings and drawings paired with psychoanalytic interpretation, A Tale of Mother’s Bones tells the remarkable story of a unique artistic and personal collaboration between Dr Grace Pailthorpe (1883–1971), a surgeon, and Reuben Mednikoff (1906–1972), an artist and designer.


A Tale of Mother’s Bone is curated by Hope Wolf (University of Sussex), with the De La Warr Pavilion and Camden Arts Centre.

Despite exhibiting with leading Surrealist artists in the 1930s, the work of Pailthorpe and Mednikoff is still relatively unknown, and A Tale of Mother’s Bones is the most significant presentation of their work in almost 20 years. Showing for the first time their paintings and drawings alongside their interpretations, A Tale of Mother’s Bones presents Pailthorpe and Mednikoff’s art and writing as part of the same vast project. Spanning nearly four decades, it tells the story of their lives through their works, and shows how their project and partnership challenged the conventions of their day.

While Mednikoff was a trained artist, Pailthorpe had previously served as a surgeon in the First World War and studied psychoanalysis. Combining their skills and knowledge, they spent decades of their lives researching how art and writing might liberate individuals and societies from violence and oppression.

Drawing on original archival research, the exhibition tells the story of the couple’s lives through their works, showing how they excavated their earliest memories (including memories of birth) in order to understand their adult relationships, critical reception, political context, and spiritual beliefs. The exhibition reinstates the couple within the artistic and intellectual histories they contributed to, and reveals a new term developed by the pair: Psychorealism.

Pailthorpe continued making work well into her 80s, producing gloriously colourful watercolours. Mednikoff, who changed his name to Richard Pailthorpe in 1948, wrote fascinating reflections on his past lives. The couple died one year apart from one another in 1971 and 1972, at their home in Sussex.

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Venue: The Exchange
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Open: TUE - SAT, 10.00 - 17.00
Closed: SUN & MON

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A Tale of Mother's Bones, showing across both Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange in Penzance


A Tale Of Mother’s Bones

19 Oct 2019 - 04 Jan 2020

Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange