LITTLE known Isle of Wight artist Mary Wykeham — once a shooting star of surrealism, but who fell from view during the post-Second World War years — will have surviving examples of her increasingly popular work on display at the famous Hepworth Wakefield gallery later this year.


The exhibition, Forbidden Territories: 100 Years of Surreal Landscapes, will run at the West Yorkshire centre between November 23 and April 27 next year.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Isle of Wight County Press:

This will be the largest public showing of Mary’s work, since her solo show of 1945 at the Leger Galleries in London — and marks the donation of important work by the artist to The Hepworth Wakefield.

Mary has arguably become more famous posthumously than she ever was when she was alive.

She was born in Pitt Place, Brighstone — which is now Brighstone Grange care home — in 1909.

Mary was not only a surrealist painter, but also etcher, poet and sculptor, who worked and exhibited during the 1930s and 1940s in London and Paris.

Largely omitted from its histories, Wykeham was once a shooting star of surrealism, but disappeared into the shadows during the post-war years.

She trained at the famous experimental Atelier 17 printmaking workshop in Paris, as well as The Grosvenor School of Modern Art.

Mary’s early work reflects the Isle of Wight’s rural vistas and the sailing boats she would frequently watch.

When she announced she wanted to be an artist, her father cut her off financially, but she moved to London and scraped a living doing nannying, shop work and nursing.

She eventually established herself and exhibited throughout the Second World War, with solo exhibitions in the London Gallery, the surrealist nerve centre in the 1940s, as well as in Paris.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Isle of Wight County Press: Apple Blossom, by Mary WykehamApple Blossom, by Mary Wykeham (Image: Judith Wykeham)


At the height of her career, Mary decided to become a nun. 

After taking her 'final vows', she was ordered by the church to burn her work, which she did — but that wasn’t the end of her life as an artist.

But after living as a hermit for 15 years, she returned to making art in London — producing works at the age of 81.

Despite her new lease of creativity, Mary never regained her footing in the art world — until now, with her work re-evaluated as important in the genre.