A Spotlight on… Margarete Berger-Hamerschlag

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As we draw to a close of our Tall Tales touring programme, we look back to the beginning and particularly when we met the Tavistock Centre’s archivist and curator, Karma Percy and three very special works hidden within the centre itself.

Upon discussing the potential Tall Tales exhibition as part of the Tavistock’s changing corridor gallery space and potential artist-in-residence (later to become Tall Tales artist Ruth Barker), we discovered just how vast the collection of artwork already residing within this NHS trust building really was.

Karma Percy had been working in collaboration with the Public Catalogue Foundation since 2010, to record and catalogue all the donated paintings within the Tavistock Centre, as part of the Foundation’s ultimate goal to document all publically owned paintings in the United Kingdom.

The Tavistock Centre’s own diverse collection of paintings is now live on the BBC website ‘Your Paintings’. The collection began in 1990 by Caroline Garland, a renowned psychoanalyst and writer who engaged local artists and championed the principle of good art in public buildings.

The Trust’s art collection is particularly unique because it consists entirely of modern and contemporary paintings, the oldest work in the building by Anthony Whishaw (RA) ‘Arcos de la Frontera’, dates back to 1960. There is wide variety of styles and subject matter in our collection but for myself and co-curator Helen, we became particularly drawn towards the work of Margarete Berger-Hamerschalg, who had 3 paintings quietly hiding up on the 3rd floor corridor.

From her earliest years when she scribbled on the prescription pads of her doctor father Berger-Hamerschlag demonstrated a desire and devotion to making art. After studying  at Professor Cizek’s groundbreaking school for children in Vienna and then at the Kunstgewerbeschule (Arts & Crafts School) in Vienna, she embarked on a whirlwind international career as illustrator, portrait painter, landscape artist, as well as fashion design and costume design for the theatre.

She was a free spirit, traversing the world, painting from country to country, experiencing life to the full. In 1934 she and her husband Josef Berger, whom she had married impulsively one lunchtime without telling her respectable family. After various traveling adventures, they finally set up home in England two years later where she continued her successful career.

She started teaching in Youth Clubs in about 1950 to make money, initially due to the post war austerity, which meant her art might be in less demand, but this activity gradually came to dominate her life and it was in this period in which she was able to combine the several facets of her artistic skills. Her educational impulses resulted in the book Journey into a Fog, an account of her years teaching, a very considerable success in its day. It ran to many editions, published in the USA, and even appeared in a paperback version. She was not long to enjoy her success though, as cancer took her life in 1958.

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Her youth club series, and images of girls, in particular, hold a strong gaze with anyone who set’s their eyes upon them. What strikes you the most is the strong attitude and dress, which the subject matters seem to hold within each painting, and was evocative of the teddby boy and youth club era. Amongst a full corridor of other interesting works, these particular youth club works, stood out amongst the other works within the Tavistock collection and the story of Hamershalg’s work and herself felt true to the themes of our Tall Tales tour. We were delighted to be the first external curator’s to loan Margarete’s work from the Tavistock Centre, meaing not only that they left the building for the first time since they were initially gifted to the centre, but that they could then travel alongside 17 other female artist’s work and be viewed by many across the UK.

And just between you and me, I can’t deny a close resemblence between one of Margarete’s painted girls, and our very own Karma Percy, who was so generous in supporting our loan of the work. Perhaps another reason we felt so drawn to the peice.

Although the Tall Tales tour has now come to an end, the works will be returned to their As long term home in the Tavistock Centre for you to see, as well as other examples of her work on display in the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna, the Applied Arts Museum in Vienna and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Image credits – Header Image: Teddy Boy & Teddy Boy and Girl, install image of Tall Tales at Glasgow Women’s Library
Middle Image: Two Girls at Youth Club, Margarete Berger-Hamershclag, watercolour on paper, photo by Tavistock Centre Art Collection 
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Ruth Barker focusing in on Anna Freud

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After spending time at the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (a research and practicing centre for mental health), Tall Tales artist in residence Ruth Barker has honed in on connections to Anna Freud. After learning more about Anna, the ‘father of psychoanalysis’ Sigmund Freud’s sixth child and a pioneering psychologist in her own right, Ruth was delighted to meet staff at the Freud Museum which has influenced her thinking further, with the museum and Anna Freud Centre being only a short walk from the Tavistock Centre.

Ruth has been looking into the relationship between the two psychoanalysts – in particular learning how as a result of Freud’s battle with cancer he ironically lost the ability to speak, with the ground-breaking, and possibly ‘mother’ of child psychology, but lesser known Anna eventually becoming his voice.

These connections are merely a starting point for Ruth in considering the development of new works that may include both video and performance. Ruth has returned to Glasgow to continue her research and development also looking into, as she often does with her practice, key classical figures whose stories, for Ruth resonate with the story of Anna Freud and her father, for example the story of Cassandra.

Meanwhile the Wewioraprojects curators have been back to London to spend some more time with the collection and wonderful Curator and Librarian Karma Percy at the Tavistock Centre, as well as meet with the Freud Museum ourselves learning about the rich Anna Freud archive. Alongside an additional visit to  discover the inner workings of the neighbouring Central School of Speech and Drama, where many students are engaged in voice studies, it appears that the potential connections across the work of these Swiss Cottage/ Finchley Road area institutions, contextual links for Ruth’s developing work and the wider Tall Tales programme are keeping busy minds even busier!

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A little more from Helen Wewiora on Tall Tales links at the Tavistock Centre

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article-2362089-1AC93A21000005DC-732_634x333As part of the current research and development stages of Wewioraprojects’ Tall Tales programme, both Helen Wewiora and artist-in-residence Ruth Barker, have been exploring the Tavistock Centre; the London based touring venue for the proposed forthcoming Tall Tales exhibition programme.

”The Tavistock Centre is home to The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and is the largest outpatient clinic in Europe offering psychological treatment to adults, adolescents, children and families and also provides training to professionals working in this field. Unknown to many though the Tavistock Centre is also the home to a a rich library collection as well as a large art collection that reaches into its hundreds. The art collection is not only overwhelmingly vast but also varied. Permanently hung throughout the Tavistock Centre, in its corridors and public spaces as well as teaching rooms and offices, the Tavistock Centre’s art collection feels almost part of the fabric of the building, as well as the every day life of all those that inhabit the building. A dedicated and hard working librarian and curator, Karma Percy, leads the collection and mounts temporary shows. Karma works tirelessly to care for the collection and the legacy of its founder, a rather visionary clinician Caroline Garland. As myself and Ruth explored the collection what struck us was not only the integration of the works into the day to day life of the centre, almost as if the collection had an unspoken life of its own as well as a set of relationships with the centre’s communities, but also the many routes via which the works have found their way into the building, often donated by artists, galleries and collectors.”

To find out more about just some of this vast collection, a hidden gem of art history, then you can follow the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/galleries/collections/the-tavistock-and-portman-nhs-foundation-trust-2460

(c) Mrs Annabel Obholzer; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationImage C. Annabel Obholzer from the Tavistock and Portman Collection