“Better than therapy”

Vicky Wilson, poet and educator, describes in “London’s Houses” the making of a plaster cast of Edith Evans by the Estonian-Jewish sculptor (born in Latvia), Dora Gordine:

“Gordine rarely worked from sketches but instead moved straight from metal armature to plaster, declaring that the process of making mistakes and reworking was vital to creation. Initially she would spend whole days talking or just being with her subjects so she could “imagine what they are like inside and bring out their inward feelings, and then put it in a form”.

Edith also modelled for a nude standing bronze:

“Evans was to say in interviews that modelling for Gordine was better than therapy: “Posing in the nude…has taken away all my inhibitions…It gave me a completely new idea of myself.” “.

The actor was then aged fifty and embarking on an affair with Michael Redgrave, twenty years her junior.

I am seeing Dorich House Museum, which sits in Kingston Vale. It was the original studio home of Gordine (1895-1991) and her husband the Hon Richard Hare (1907-1966). Now Grade II listed, the building was completed in 1936 to Gordine’s design, and is an exceptional example of a modern studio house created by and for a female artist. It’s a warm, breezy afternoon, perfect for finishing an astonishing visit with time on the roof terrace, spent listening to birdsong and the soughing of the wind in the canopy of branches.

Gordine first achieved critical acclaim in 1926; in 1938 she was hailed as “possibly the finest woman sculptor in the world” and remained a significant presence in European sculpture until the late 1960s. After settling in Kingston in 1936 she remained living and working at Dorich House until her death in 1991.

Richard Gilbert Hare developed a lifelong interest in the study and collection of Russian art and culture. In the postwar years, Hare became a Professor of Russian Literature at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at the University of London.

Following Gordine’s death, Dorich House was acquired and renovated by Kingston University. The Museum holds the world’s largest collection of Gordine’s work, which spans her artistic career.

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