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Details & Cataloguing

The Fine Art Society: 142 Years on New Bond Street

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Gluck
1895 - 1978
FLORA'S CLOAK
signed Gluck (lower left)
oil on canvas, presented in the Gluck Frame
66 by 40cm., 26 by 15¾in.
Executed circa 1923.
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Provenance

Constance Spry, London
Tony Marr, by 1961
The Constance Spry Flower Shop, London
Lady Boyd of Merton

Exhibited

London, Dorian Leigh Gallery, 1924 
London, The Fine Art Society, Spring '95, Spring 1995, no.74 (as Flora)
London, The Fine Art Society, Gluck: 1895-1978 Paintings, October - November 1998 Brighton, Brighton Museums, Gluck: Art & Identity, 18 November 2017 - 11 March 2018, (as Primavera)

Literature

Drawing & Design: Incorporating the Human Form, Vol. 4, Series VI, November 1924, illustrated p.205
Diana Souhami, Gluck, Her Biography, Ontario, 1988, p.54
Amy de la Haye and Martin Pel (eds), Gluck: Art & Identity, New Haven and London, 2017, p.90, illustrated p.92

Catalogue Note

Gluck painted Flora’s Cloak in the early 1920s, and the work was included in her very first “one-man show” at the Dorian Leigh Galleries in South Kensington in 1924. The decade preceding was one of escape and rebellion, marked by her student years at St John’s Wood School of Art between 1913 and 1916 and then her time in Lamorna, Cornwall. Gluck fled to Lamorna from London with her lover E.M. Craig and set up a dilapidated cottage amongst a community of artists from 1916. By the 1920s, Gluck had returned to London and adopted her genderless name and androgynous style, fixing her personal and artistic identity.

Flora’s Cloak pre-figures her iconic flower paintings of the 1930s and 1940s, initiated partly as a result of her relationship with Constance Spry, the famed society florist.  As Martin Battersby commented in the catalogue for Gluck’s 1973 Fine Art Society exhibition: ‘The cool elegance of her paintings of flowers reflects Gluck’s deep but unsentimental love of flowers and it can be said that these canvases had a considerable influence on a generation of flower arrangers and indeed upon the way in which even today we look at flowers.’ (Martin Battersby, quoted in Gluck, exh. cat., The Fine Art Society, London, 1973).

The present work was owned by Constance Spry and exhibited in her South Audley Street shop, known affectionately to Spry’s staff as ‘Interflora’. Flora’s Cloak is thought to be Gluck’s only nude, depicting a naked female figure with a stylised cloak of a multitude of flowers flung out behind her, a few strands escaping and trailing lightly around her right thigh. The woman is allegorical and symbolic, seemingly rooted in art historical precedents like Botticelli’s Primavera and even, aesthetically, a female iteration of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. An amalgamation and personification of spring, youth and fecundity, we see her front on, leaping above green and pleasant farmland that gently curves as though she is dancing over the earth. A mass of yellow hair – perhaps straw or a headdress – with a green headband that frames her face, streams upright above her head, like tongues of flames, and her lips are slightly parted as though about to speak or sing.

Flora’s Cloak is an extraordinary image – an iconic vision of yonic power, of the synchronicity of woman and nature, of the female body and fertility, of seasons and re-birth. As Gluck explained in 1973, ‘I believe that the true artist is a conduit open to any unexpected experience, a lightning conductor…all one has to do is to remain faithful and undeterred to the last. The Vision dictates everything in the flash of reception…I only respond to a Vision from wherever it comes and whatever its form.’ (Gluck, in Gluck, exh. cat., The Fine Art Society, London, 1973).

The Fine Art Society: 142 Years on New Bond Street

|
London