Transatlantic realist painter Sylvia Sleigh brings female gaze to Tate Liverpool

By Mark Sheerin | 12 February 2013

Exhibition preview: Sylvia Sleigh, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, until May 3 2013

Oil painting group portrait of women in 1970s dress
Sylvia Sleigh, A.I.R Group Portrait (1977–78)© Estate of Sylvia Sleigh

While a paying exhibition on the fourth floor celebrates the glammy side of the 1970s, Tate Liverpool give over their ground floor space to a single artist from the 1960s and beyond. Sylvia Sleigh may be a product of her time, but her realist paintings have a timeless power.

They also have a propensity to shock. Men have painted female nudes since time immemorial, but Sleigh returns the favour. The result is a collection of passively rendered beautiful men, including a generously proportioned young man with an afro who could be a poster boy for the whole decade.

Other examples of her realism include tan lines and body hair on female nudes and an impressive all female group portrait in which fashions and faces of another time build to a detailed composition with personality to spare (A.I.R Group Portrait 1977–78). 

This show should appeal to anyone who enjoyed Alice Neel’s Painted Truths at Whitechapel in 2010. Both painters redress the sexist balance of mainstream art history, tending to empower women and objectify men. The results are immediate, discomforting, and still radical today.

  • Open 10am-5pm (6pm from March 30). Admission free.

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