Earthly Delights - The Art of Mary Adshead

University of Liverpool Art Gallery, Abercromby Square
Runs until 29th April 2005

Reviewed by Josephine Raven

Currently making its debut at the University of Liverpool Art Gallery is the touring exhibition featuring the work of Mary Adshead (1904-1995). Although principally celebrated as a mural painter, Adshead work includes a variety of disciplines from decorative panels to easel paintings and collage. On display is a small cross-section of her surviving work, her humorous approach consistently employed throughout, and expressed using several different techniques and styles.

The work ascends a small staircase, leading the viewer to the landing at the top of the building. The first piece, Self-Portrait with Hat, represents an early example of her work. This is followed by two collage compositions, part of a series executed during the World War II period and its aftermath. Each image The Radcliffe Camera and The White Horse is created using materials available at this time, scraps of paper and cuttings from magazines or books are carefully constructed into precise and detailed representations.

Adshead received a variety of commissions throughout her career, from private works for country house such as those mentioned above, as well as commissions for ships, hotels and restaurants. This diverse range can also be illustrated by Venus and Gladstone an example of numerous sketches constructed for Crystal Palace and The King of the Castle one of many striking poster designs used to advertise theatre productions at the Playhouse.

Although this exhibition reflects the breadth of Adshead’s work and informative labels accompany each image, I found the position of the display slightly awkward and distracting. It appears that individual pieces were selected to illustrate the disparate nature of her artistic career, (or merely because they are the only surviving compositions) but this disjointed approach combined with the uneasy layout inhibited my full appreciation of the exhibition.