The gallery’s exhibition provides a thoughtful and detailed insight into the way in which women have been depicted in ornate and enclosed spaces.

Edward Burne-Jones, Laus Veneris,1873-75, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle Upon Tyne. (c) Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, Bridgeman Images.

In a time when we are all confined at home, exploring the Guildhall Gallery’s exhibition examining the way in which women in art have been portrayed in interior settings seems extremely appropriate.

Combining classical art with more contemporary images of women, The Enchanted Interior is an exhibition that is seemingly lavish and detailed to challenge and explore the metaphor of the ‘gilded cage’ through the work of fifty artists.

Guided around the exhibition by curator Katherine Pearce, online viewers are able to see the changing times brought with it different attitudes towards women and the way in which they were portrayed in enclosed spaces. While the tour only features a few of the highlight pieces, it does still manage to give a real sense of the various outlooks towards women in art.

One particularly fascinating piece that is highlighted is Evelyn De Morgan’s ‘The Gilded Cage’ that is filled with symbolism and showing its female subject as desperately trying to get through to the other side of the window while her husband blandly ignores her. It highlights the artist’s passion for women’s rights – including the idea that women deserves more than to feel entrapped in marriage and is a bold piece of work for its time.

Elsewhere, Maisie Broadhead’s piece ‘Shackled’ from her series of works titled ‘Pearls’ is another powerful image that makes a strong impact on the viewer. While stylised as 18th century portrait, on closer inspection, the pearls the female subject is wearing have her bound and captured, leading all the way out onto the floor. This just highlights further that even living in luxury can make a subject just as entrapped.

There are many other fascinating pieces on display that ensures there is plenty of variety to explore the way in which women were portrayed in interior settings. One such example of this is a piano given to Edward Byrne Jones as a wedding present from his aunt, which he later painted on with sombre images of women,with elements of despair. It is a grim image and reveals a lot about the artist and his own attitude towards women.

This is a very neat and tidy exhibition that ensures that it covers a wide variety of different issues within the main topic. It flows from one topic to the next, helped by curator Katherine Pearce’s insightful comments and information that provides great context behind the specially selected pieces in this video tour.

While it is a real shame that under current circumstances people can not go and visit this exhibition in person, this is really the next best thing to do. A fascinating and insightful display that explores its topic well.

By Emma Clarendon

The Enchanted Interior at the Guildhall Gallery can be viewed through a video tour here:

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


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