Born 1929 Wisconsin, US
Died 2016 London, UK
Jacqueline Morreau is known for her drawings and paintings that depict women as protagonists in mythical scenes, and/or in psychological explorations of maternal relationships. From the age of 14, she studied at the Chouinard Art Institute, Jepson’s Art Institute, and Los Angeles City College, before qualifying as a medical illustrator from the University of California Medical School in 1958. She moved to London in 1972, where she became a leading feminist and figurative artist. Part of the feminist art movement in London in the 1970s and 80s, she exhibited with the Women’s Arts Alliance (1978) and co-staged two touring exhibitions of works by women artists (1980). Within her lifetime, her career was the subject of a touring retrospective (1998–9) and an ‘Artists’ Lives’ episode as part of the British Library series. She was a visiting lecturer in drawing at the Royal College of Art and Oxford Brookes University, and Professor of Art at Regent’s College until 1998.
Self-Portrait, Hand to Mouth (1989).
Coats function as metaphors for identity in the practice of leading feminist artist, Jacqueline Morreau. Where her hand holds the coat in Hand to Mouth, Self-Portrait there are several entangled outlines, almost in conflict.
Identity is further explored in representational form through her cropped hair, grimacing smile, and heavy limbs drawn with earthy charcoal lines. Together, these details confuse expected notions of delicate femininity, while the obstruction of her face by her hand destabilises the artistic trope of woman as a subject available to the gaze of man. Overall, the work depicts the artist as being slightly off-balance, her life lived rather precariously – ‘hand to mouth’ – in more than one sense.
Psyche Awake, Eros Asleep I (1991).
In the ‘Psyche and Eros’ series, Jacqueline Morreau retells the ancient Greek myth of the same name from a woman’s perspective. The original myth is a story of love. Mortal maiden, Psyche, fearlessly overcomes a series of obstacles in order to prove her affection for the god, Eros. So impressed by her perseverance, kings of the gods, Zeus, grants Psyche immortality so that the two lovers can spend eternity together.
Rather than fulfilling the female stereotype of passivity, by retelling ancient Greek myths with female protagonists Morreau creates a symbolic framework for women’s experience. The intellectual and active direct stare of Psyche confronts the viewer, in direct contrast to sleeping Eros in the background. The androgenous entanglement of limbs suggests female sexuality and desire, whilst contributing to the unsettled narrative of the overall etching. Through this exploration, Morreau highlights how ancient myths and prejudices construct contemporary society.