Jacqueline Morreau - Press Cuttings and other quotes

A US born figurative painter working on the representation of women from a feminist viewpoint, Jacqueline Morreau studied with Rico Lebrun in Los Angeles and completed a training in medical illustration before settling permanently in London in 1972. Technical skill and concern with depicting the human body have both remained central to her work, even when this commitment contravened feminism's 1970s rejection of oil painting as too traditional to be politically valid. Although Morreau's art is traditional in appearance, it is revolutionary in content. Morreau was one of the four artists who organized "Women's Images of Men" - an exhibition which opened at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and toured Britain in 1980-81 - and, in her paintings and drawings, she has continued to express what she has described as `the divided self'. Through metaphorical scenes, often derived from classical mythology, Morreau presents complex and often conflicting views of women which not only reclaim and represent familiar stories from a female perspective, but also act as allegories for the values of contemporary society... Just as Greek mythology is underpinned by strata of complex and ambiguous sexual messages, so are Morreau's paintings... Morreau is one of the few artists to produce work that is both didactic and open to wide interpretation.

Louisa Buck, The Sexual Imagination, ed Harriett Gilbert, London 1993

Jacqueline Morreau's work as a feminist painter has involved the rewriting of narratives and myths central to the Western tradition from the perspective of a female subject. Her early training in traditional methods of figurative drawing and oil painting has never been abandoned but has steadily developed to exploit a "masterly" free-flowing line in drawing and a complex layering of colour in her oil paintings of figurative subjects....

Katy Deepwell, Dictionary of Women Artists, ed Delia Gage, London and Chicago, 1997

Morreau's work is not about a sentimental mythology but a reappropriation of the old stories made relevant now. If Mary came to Greenham she'd be arrested for breach of peace; The Divided Self burns a midnight candle to write by while nearly incapacitated by her nurturing half, bare-breasted and suckling three babies.

Ann Cullis, Power Plays, review in Artscribe, December 1983

Jacqueline Morreau's paintings are concerned with myth, humour and history. they are multi-layered allegories located in a tradition of high seriousness manifest in Western history and mythological painting... she takes as her major vehicle of expression the human figure, particularly the active female, the woman as protagonist. The scale and format of her works signal authority. She adopts traditional forms to question the authority and meaning of tradition. Her paintings are effective because they acknowledge the cultural traditions as dynamic and formative forces which are rich in possibilities precisely because they are ambiguous... The themes and values are at once overt and ambiguous. The morally equivocal nature of the Greek myths which she so often utilizes is an essential element in her strategy. It opens up the space for a previously disinherited voice.

Keith Wheldon, Myth and Metaphor, catalogue essay, London 1988

Jacqueline Morreau's large figurative paintings and drawings use myth and metaphor to touch on and clarify values in contemporary life, seen and felt from her experiences as a woman.... Morreau explores subtle aspects of male-female relationships, merging the concept of difference through androgynous forms whose sexual characteristics are less important than their shared feelings. What is revealed is the vulnerability of men and women, expressed by the pallor of naked and semi-naked bodies... Love and sex are major underlying themes, referred to not only in romantic terms but with a powerful sense of emotional as well as physical involvement, informed by the reality of experience.

Emmanuel Cooper, Myth and Metaphor, review in Time Out, March 1989

Myth and metaphor take on new meaning in recent work by the American artist Jacqueline Morreau... Art becomes a vehicle with which to contemplate society's values and the importance of historical precedent. Ancient myths, displaced and frequently incongruous in 20th-century contexts, exude multi-layered allegory...

Dalya Alberge, Myth and Metaphor, review in The Independent, February 1989

Both as an artist and as a woman, Morreau is used to dealing with contradiction and acknowledging paradox. Her `Divided Self' paintings of 1979-83 dealt specifically with the dilemmas that society, biology and art history had thrown up in the path of the female artist; and throughout her career Morreau has balanced the personal with the political, while opposing dogma in any form... The freshness and subtlety of this work is not just a matter of its content... Since artistic skill is no longer deemed to be incompat-ible with original thought, Morreau has shown herself to be in command of both fields. In an era when questions have become more relevant than answers, Jacqueline Morreau refuses to please the crowd by providing simple solutions.

Louisa Buck, Paradise Now, catalogue essay, London 1990

In earlier work Morreau took well known myths, such as the Rape of Persephone and her retrieval from hell, and reinterpreted them from a feminist perspective. Her new work is less specific in its references as though, having analyzed the old stories, a position has been established from which to write new mythologies able to mirror female perceptions and desires... Morreau's symbolic universe is dominated by these powerful women, the creators of humankind and the moulders of destiny... This body of work offers a remarkable commentary on life and its vicissitudes, based on the personal experience of motherhood but broadened and generalised into universal wisdom.

Sarah Kent, Paradise Now, review in Time Out, May 1990

Jacqueline Morreau is another American who successfully fought to gain a representation without abandoning the tradition of figure painting... She has carved an important niche in the art world by embracing feminist themes... Feminist art has received much attention over the last two decades and Morreau has taken a lead; she was co-organiser of the "Women's Images of Men" show at the ICA in 1980. She takes her themes from history, myth or allegory, transposing them into modern commentaries on `the endurance of oppressive power structures' and the anomalies of sexuality.

Geraldine Norman, Paradise Now, review in The Independent, April 1990

At first it astonishes me: Jacqueline Morreau ... has left the human form behind her and journeyed into an extraordinary terrain of coasts and desert moun-tains... But this radical departure into landscape is a development, not a break. She has always painted meta-mor-phoses, transformations. Here earth and mountain become sea, sea becomes earth, earth becomes the furniture of my sleep and my eroticism. In the etching series, `Disclosing Eros', I re-enter Jacqueline Morreau's love affair with the human body, its passion expressed by yearning torsions of bone and muscle. Again I am at the interface of the human and the divine, this time within a retelling of the ancient encounter of soul and body, intellect and passion.

Judith Kazanzis, Fold upon Fold, catalogue essay, London 1994

In the "Fold upon Fold" (sea/bed) series ... Morreau temporarily abandoned her direct representation of the figure and began to explore the traces of human activity left behind in the twisted draperies of a recently abandoned bed, the site of both sexuality and sleep. The environment - literally sea, sky and landscape - merges with the human trace of twisted sheets and bedding to figure both sensuality and mood through the combinations of colour, atmosphere and form.

Katy Deepwell, Themes and Variations, catalogue essay, London 1996

...myth provides Jacqueline Morreau with tools for an exploration of female psychology within a wider context of political struggle. Using the iconography of myths, she strives to give meaning to the plurality of female experience... Twinned images of men and women attempting to share the same garment or struggling over the ownership of a scarlet coat illuminate the psychological battle between our anima and animus as well as the power struggle between the sexes. Dream-like, lyrical and erotic, these intense works ... seem peculiarly old fashioned in their slowly revealed intimacies, but are all the more worthwhile for that.

Sue Hubbard, Jacqueline Morreau and others, The Lamont Gallery, review in Time Out, August 1997