Williamson – Desmond Morris Retrospective

imageLines of Thought – A retrospective exhibition of paintings and drawings by Desmond Morris
13 September – 9 November 2008

Desmond Morris, 80 this year, is best-known as an author, broadcaster and zoologist.  In 1967 his book The Naked Ape shocked the world.
Over twelve million copies have been sold and it has been translated into most languages.  The same degree of popularity greeted his television career.  His first appearance on the screen was made in 1956 in Zootime, which proved to be a highly popular programme, and began a 40-year career writing, narrating and presenting programmes.

imageThis reputation as a scientist and television presenter has, however, overshadowed another, equally passionate facet of his life’s work.  What is less known about Desmond Morris is that from the age of sixteen he has been a committed and practising Surrealist painter.

This passion began in his early years.  During one of his childhood days Desmond Morris happened to be rummaging around in the attic of the family home in Purton, Wiltshire, near Swindon.  By chance he came across a dusty mahogany box containing an old, brass microscope and a large collection of slides which had belonged to his great-grandfather, an enthusiastic Victorian naturalist.  Once set up, the long-abandoned instrument became the source of many revelations.  The unexplained images captured on the slides revealed a whole new world, not simply of the animal kingdom but of incomprehensible abstract patterns, shapes and colours. Arguably, this revelation opened up both sides of his later life. It showed the intriguing secrets to be found in the natural world but also this entire invisible universe struck sparks in the boy’s imagination and inspired him to create his own.

The lives have been dual for sixty years, each taking their turn in priority at different times. In recent years exhibitions have outnumbered books and this retrospective is an opportunity to review an entire career. Paintings have been borrowed from Tate Britain and from private collections as well as from the artist himself and there is on display a special selection of drawings that have only rarely been exhibited before. A book by Dr Silvano Levy, which is devoted to the drawings, is published alongside the exhibition.

The Williamson Art Gallery & Museum is celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2008 during Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture. This exhibition is just one of the highlights of the autumn programme.

Venue    Williamson Art Gallery & Museum
        Slatey Road
        Birkenhead CH43 4UE


Dates        13 September – 9 November 2008
Times        Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm