The Desmond Morris Collections

A History:

Back in the 1940s Desmond Morris started to develop a private world in his paintings and drawings. This world was occupied by creatures he called biomorphs. They were influenced by biological shapes, but did not copy directly anything found in nature. On his canvases, he began to evolve his own universe of strange beings that seem to occupy a parallel existence to our own. Since the 1940s he has painted over 3000 pictures and his biomorphs are still changing and evolving even today, in 2020. In addition to his paintings he has also produced many meticulous drawings and recently added colour to some of them, so that they became finished works in themselves. 20 of these are included here in the online Surrealist Art Gallery. 


Desmond Morris hardly ever does preparatory sketches for his paintings. When he makes black-and-white drawings they are always finished works in their own right. They have a spontaneity and an immediacy that gives them a special appeal. Because the shapes are created quickly, it gives him the opportunity to experiment with new anatomical details that enrich his biomorphic world. Some of the discoveries made when creating these drawings may later be incorporated into large paintings.  Some of his black-and-white drawings are also included here in this first collection of works offered for sale by the online Surrealist Art Gallery.

Grace Pailthorpe

A History:

 An English surrealist who was a member of the British surrealist group from 1936 to 1940. She was born in 1883 in St. Leonard’s-on-Sea, Sussex, and died there in 1971.

Her work was included in the International Surrealist Exhibition in London in1936, where it was singled out for special praise by André Breton. Her lifelong partner was the artist Reuben Mednikoff  and they were once described as the eeriest couple in British art. They met in 1935 at a party given by a friend of Aleister Crowley, the man known as ‘The Great Beast’. 

Within a few years Pailthorpe had written an essay that summed up her approach, called The Scientific Aspect of Surrealism. In it, she drew a comparison between surrealism and psychoanalysis, concluding that their final goal is the same – ‘the liberation of man’. However, the significance of the paintings that she produced stemmed, not from their psychoanalytical value, but from their irrational visual impact.

In the late 1930s Pailthorpe painted many surrealist works and, after this, participated in a number of surrealist groups shows in Europe, North America and Australia. In 1940 she left England and travelled to New York, then California and finally to Vancouver where she delivered a major lecture on the subject of surrealism and psychology. During World War II she exhibited her work at the Vancouver Art Gallery but then returned to England in 1946.

For some years Pailthorpe was a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Portman Clinic in London with Mednikoff as her assistant. In the years that followed they would occasionally exhibit their paintings together and also started a School of Art Therapy.  When she died, a great deal of her work was lost and only a small part of it survives today.

For more information on the Pailthorpe watercolours; here is a video from the recent show at the De La Warr.

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