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SUzanne perlman | a painter of three continents

Suzanne Perlman

Saatchi Gallery, London

26th June - 1st July 2019

Press release

Listings Information




Dates: Wednesday 26 June to Monday 1 July 2019


Venue:  Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York's HQ, King's Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 4RY


Price: Admission is Free



The visionary expressionist work of Suzanne Perlman (b. 1922, Budapest) is celebrated in a major retrospective at FairForSaatchi at the Saatchi Gallery 26-30 June 2019 curated by the Venetian gallery Andrea Tardini. The exhibition traces the trajectory of Perlman’s 80-year career across three continents and reveals the experimentation, scope and impact of her impressive oeuvre. At 96-year-old and living in London, this remarkable Dutch-Hungarian artist is now receiving the recognition she has long deserved and has recently had a painting acquired by the Rijks Museum and received a Financial Times Critic’s Choice for her 2018 exhibition at the Dutch Centre in London.


This exhibition will showcase around 20 key paintings including works that have rarely or never been shown before, shining the spotlight on Perlman’s multi-faceted work from three main periods of her artistic career: paintings from Curaçao; those created in the United States; and works painted in London. The works on show emphasise Perlman’s perception of women as subtly erotic and powerful beings, her psychological and introspective portraits and her melding of the figurative and the abstract.


Perlman was born to a family of art and antique dealers and grew up surrounded by art and artists. After marrying her Dutch husband Henri in 1939, Suzanne moved to Rotterdam. However, her time there was cut short as the Second World War engulfed Europe. She and her husband narrowly escaped Nazi persecution leaving on a boat from Bordeaux on the very day the French army capitulated to the invading Germans. The couple arrived on the Caribbean island of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles a month later, and lived there for the next four decades where Suzanne embarked on her artistic career. She was drawn to painting the ordinary people of the island and produced many tender, unsentimental portraits of figures – works infused with dignity and an inner radiance. Suzanne became a household name in the Caribbean and was awarded the Officer of the Royal Order of Oranje Nassau (Dutch equivalent of a Dame hood) in recognition of her artistic work in Curaçao.


From the late 1950’s, Suzanne and her husband began to split their time between Curaçao and New York. In New York, she began her studies at the Arts Students League and was immersed in the city’s abstract expressionist scene, working alongside some of the leading painters of the time. Perlman experimented with new styles and also painted a series of monumental yet gracefully intimate portraits of female nudes. Perlman’s oeuvre developed further in the 1960’s when she was selected to work under Oskar Kokoschka, who became a mentor to her and had a seminal impact on her career.


After the death of her husband, Suzanne moved to London. She says ‘I began to paint immediately. As an outsider, there was quite an amazing quality in what I saw – I had to communicate this sense of wonder.’ Painting for Suzanne was always a spiritual exercise, rather than a commercial one, and her vast series of powerful, expressionist London works were painted largely in obscurity until recently when her work has been collected by many private and public collections in Europe, America and Asia.


Perlman’s work captures the ephemeral with graceful acuity, evoking moments of joy as well as sad poignancy, capturing the ineffable serenity of a landscape and the moving dignity of her human subjects.


The exhibition will be held from the 26 June to 30 June in the ground floor exhibition space at Saatchi Gallery.


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