Eileen Agar was born into considerable wealth in Buenos Aires, daughter to a Scottish father and an American mother. The family relocated to London when she was 11 years old.
After studying art at various schools, including The Slade, Agar briefly swapped middle-class respectability for Left-Bank Paris, and an artistic environment populated by the likes of Picasso, Lee Miller, André Breton and Paul Éluard.
Falling under the spell of Surrealism, she would become one of the most diverse British artists of her era, instilling her passion for music and nature in imaginatively playful objects, collages, photographs and paintings.
Agar is often described as a Surrealist — in part because she was one of the few female artists to participate in the notorious International Surrealist Exhibition of 1936 (at which Salvador Dalí almost suffocated while wearing a diving helmet). In her biography, Agar explained that it was actually Roland Penrose and Herbert Read who declared she was a Surrealist and, bemused, she went along with it.
Beautiful, witty and brilliantly imaginative, Agar was later described as a ‘seaside Surrealist’ for her beachcombing still-life paintings that revealed a sharp eye for the uncanny in objects. These were largely inspired by her intense relationship with Paul Nash, who introduced her to the concept of the found object.
Today, the Tate owns several of Eileen Agar’s paintings, including the wonderfully supernatural Head of Dylan Thomas (1960).