Lilian Somerville: The Woman Behind the Post-War British Art Boom

19 October – 11 November 2022

In the course of many exhibitions of post war British art curated at Osborne Samuel, one name would continually arise – that of Lilian Somerville. She was the Director of the British Council’s Fine Arts Department from 1948 to 1970, the doyenne of pivotal Venice and São Paulo Biennales and curator of numerous British Council led touring exhibitions. Letters and documents written by her or to her exist in huge files at the National Archives, the British Council and in countless artists’ archives. Her influence at home and internationally was extensive and profound on the landscape of post war British art.

Curiously however, until now, there has not been an exhibition or publication dedicated to her work , unlike male colleagues of the same generation.

In this exhibition we have brought together paintings and sculptures by British artists with a connection to Somerville. Their careers were undoubtedly impacted by her enterprise.