Sylvia Sleigh

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The Turkish Bath (1973)

Sylvia Sleigh (Llandudno, Gwynedd, Wales, May 8, 1916—24 October 2010, New York, NY) was a Welsh-born naturalised American realist painter.[1]

After studying at the Brighton School of Art, she had her first solo exhibition in 1953 at the Kensington Art Gallery.

She married Lawrence Alloway, an art critic, before moving to the United States in 1961.[2] The following year, Alloway became a curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.[3][4]

Around 1970, from feminist principles, she painted a series of works reversing stereotypical artistic themes by featuring naked men in poses usually associated with women. Some directly alluded to existing works, such as her gender-reversed version of Ingres's The Turkish Bath (the reclining man is her husband, Lawrence Alloway).[5] Philip Golub Reclining alludes similarly to the Rokeby Venus by Velázquez.[6]

Other works equalize the roles of men and women, such as the 1976 Concert Champetre, in which all the characters are nude, unlike its similarly composed namesake by Titian (sometimes credited to Giorgione), in which only the women are. She comments on her works: "I feel that my paintings stress the equality of men & women (women & men). To me, women were often portrayed as sex objects in humiliating poses. I wanted to give my perspective. I liked to portray both man and woman as intelligent and thoughtful people with dignity and humanism that emphasized love and joy".[7]

In 2007, in an interview with Brian Sherwin for Myartspace, Sylvia Sleigh was asked if gender equality issues in the mainstream art world, and the world in general, had changed for the better. Sleigh answered, "I do think things have improved for women in general there are many more women in government, in law and corporate jobs, but it's very difficult in the art world for women to find a gallery". According to Sleigh, there is still more that needs to be done in order for men and women to be treated as equals in the art world.[8]

In November 2009,Sleigh exhibited 12 portraits dating from 1961–79, many of which were being shown for the first time in decades, at 1-20 Gallery in New York.[9] The Women's Caucus for Art honored Sleigh as a 2011 recipient of the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award.[10]

During the last two decades of her life, Sleigh purchased or negotiated trades of over 100 works of art by other women and exhibited her growing collection at SOHO 20 Gallery in 1999.[11] These included paintings, sculptures, and prints by Cecile Abish, Dotty Attie, Helène Aylon, Louise Bourgeois, Rosalyn Drexler, Martha Edelheit, Audrey Flack, Nancy Grossman, Pegeen Guggenheim, Nancy Holt, Lila Katzen, Vernita Nemec, Betty Parsons, Ce Roser, Susan Sills, Michelle Stuart, Selina Trieff, Audrey Ushenko, and many others. In 2011, the Sylvia Sleigh Collection was donated to the Rowan University Art Gallery and forms the core of its permanent collection.[12]

She died, aged 94, in New York City.


  1. ^ New York Times obituary
  2. ^ "An Unnerving Romanticism": The Art of Sylvia Sleigh and Lawrence Alloway (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Art Alliance, 2001)
  3. ^ "Dictionary of Art Historians". Alloway, Lawrence. Retrieved October 18, 2011. 
  4. ^ "An Unnerving Romanticism": The Art of Sylvia Sleigh and Lawrence Alloway (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Art Alliance, 2001)
  5. ^ Nude awakening, Frances Borzello, The Guardian, November 2, 2002
  6. ^ A Biographical Dictionary of Women Artists in Europe and America Since 1850, Penny Dunford, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1990, ISBN 0-7108-1144-6
  7. ^ Love and joy, official website
  8. ^ "Art Space Talk: Sylvia Sleigh", Myartspace, 24 November 2007. Retrieved 16 May 2008.
  9. ^ Moyer, Carrie (February 2010). "Sylvia Sleigh". The Brooklyn Rail. 
  10. ^ "Women's Caucus for Art". Women's Caucus for Art. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  11. ^ Parallel Visions: Selections from the Sylvia Sleigh Collection of Women Artists (New York: SOHO20 Gallery, 1999).
  12. ^ Andrew D. Hottle, "Sylvia Sleigh: Artist and Collector," in Groundbreaking: The Women of the Sylvia Sleigh Collection (Glassboro, NJ: Rowan University Art Gallery, 2011). Retrieved 26 August 2013.

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