Thankfully, today we're (albeit slowly) edging towards a world where gender pronouns are becoming looser, and it's not unusual to be offered "Mx" on a dropdown, should we wish not to have to subscribe to clearcut identifiers of our sex. In the 21st century, these sort of issues are by no means perfect, but gender fluidity is certainly more accepted than in the early 20th century when the artist Gluck was making work.
Born Hannah "Gluck" Gluckstein, the artist used the trust fund given to her by her wealthy family on her 21st birthday to move away from her North London birthplace and buy a studio in Lamorna, a fishing village and cove in west Cornwall where the Newlyn School artists colony was based. Away from the shackles and expectations of her upbringing, she began to dress in "men's" clothing, smoked a pipe and cut her hair short; by 1918, she insisted on being called only Gluck. "No prefix, suffix, or quotes”, she insisted. The Fine Art Society says: "When an art society of which she was vice-president listed her as ‘Miss Gluck’ on the letterhead, she resigned."
For all her railing against the societal and social more of the time, the work she made is beguiling in its faithfulness to painterly traditions. She became known for her quietly beautiful flower paintings and figurative works, as well as some emotionally charged portraits, such as that of her lover Constance Spry. Among her innovations was the Gluck Frame, a device she invented and patented that she felt best showed her work.
A new series of three shows at The Fine Art Society shine a light on the importance of Gluck's work, and examines the "multiple and conflicting narratives of women artists from the 19th Century until the present day," says the gallery. "Gluck redefined what it meant to be a woman and an artist working in the twentieth century and paved the way for future generations of artists."
Alongside a series of works by Gluck will be a gallery devoted to 12 contemporary artists' responses to her work in a show called Women Artists: A Conversation. Finally, the Modern British Women exhibition "seeks to uncover the work of both celebrated and lesser-known artists working throughout the 20th Century, and gives historical context to Gluck’s paintings by showing the work of her contemporaries." The exhibitions will run from 6 - 28 February at The Fine Art Society, 148 New Bond Street, London W1S 2JT.