Women’s Images at Burgh House

Burgh House in Hampstead, London has opened two poignant exhibitions that spotlight the extraordinary artistic legacies of women émigrés who sought refuge in Hampstead during the tumultuous years of the 1930s. Marie-Louise von Motesiczky: (in)Visible Women and About Womenphotographs by Dorothy Bohm are not only artistic reflections of their personal journeys but also profound insights into the experiences of women in the 20th century.

Marie Louise von Motesiczky, Studio with Nude Model © Marie Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust

With themes of resilience, identity, and the power of creativity, the works of Motesiczky and Bohm allow visitors to Burgh House to become immersed in the stories of these remarkable women. Motesiczky’s exploration of the personal, public, and inner lives of women in the 20th century provide a fascinating comparison to Bohm’s photographs which show a unique visual narrative of women’s evolution from the social upheavals of the interwar period to the transformative changes of the post-war era.    

In (in)Visible Women, Marie-Louise von Motesiczky’s vibrant expressionist paintings take center stage, offering a poignant exploration of the rich everyday lives of women. The women in Motesiczky’s works depict women engaged in a variety of cosmopolitan activities, and in doing so reveal the essence of their lives in a rapidly changing world. 


Born in Austria in 1906, Motesiczky’s works provide a profound presence to women as friends, lovers, carers, and individuals navigating through life’s complexities. Her paintings, characterised by their wit, poignancy, and occasional unsettling quality, range from literal depictions of everyday scenes to fantastical explorations of inner emotions. Having fled the Nazis’ rise to power, she found sanctuary in Britain in 1939 and made Hampstead her permanent home in 1948.

Marie Louise von Motesiczky, Lorette in the Studio © Marie Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust.jpg

Through Motesiczky’s energetic brushstrokes, her works made significant contributions to the visibility of women’s lives in ways that are rare within the art historical record and public consciousness. From dressmakers to florists and dog groomers, the women in Motesiczky’s works break further from artistic tradition in depicting women engaging in activities such as attending lectures, visiting restaurants and the theatre. These women rare examples of women’s experiences through different life stages while shining a light on the intimacy and camaraderie of women’s relationships with each other.

While her portrayal of women of different ages provides a nuanced perspective on femininity and identity, Dorothy Bohm’s lens captures the spirit and strength of women as they navigate through history. Bohm photographed the changing lives – and styles – of the women she saw, creating photographs that are always warm, sometimes wry or poignant, and often powerful.

Dorothy Bohm © Estate of Dorothy Bohm

About Women: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm showcases the remarkable photographic journey of Dorothy Bohm, spanning over seven decades and capturing the evolving lives of women around the world. Through her lens, Bohm offers intimate, candid glimpses into the multifaceted experiences of womanhood. Born in Germany, Bohm arrived in the UK as a child refugee from Nazism in 1939. Settling in Hampstead in the late 1950s, she embarked on a lifelong exploration of women’s lives, portraying them with warmth, wit, and power. 

Commenting on her work, Bohm famously said: “My idea was to portray women so that viewers could see what I could see, that women were changing”. Bohm’s career spanned a period that saw unprecedented shifts in the lives of women. Across the globe women had increased access to the vote, global wars saw them enter the workforce, the development of the contraceptive pill brought new freedoms, and feminist movements demanded equality.  


This centenary exhibition, presented in collaboration with Bohm’s daughter, art historian Monica Bohm-Duchen, is the first to focus exclusively on Bohm’s profound contributions to photography. Though her has been widely exhibited across various themes and retrospectives, this is the first exhibition to focus on her photographs of women, and builds on the book About Women (published c.2015). 

Dorothy Bohm © Estate of Dorothy Bohm

In addition to these two extraordinary exhibitions, Burgh House will also unveil a rehang that focuses on émigré stories within its collection, further enriching the narrative of Hampstead’s diverse cultural heritage. This reimagining of the House’s displays will highlight the diverse experiences of individuals who sought refuge in Hampstead during times of crisis, enriching the understanding of the local community’s rich tapestry of heritage and culture.

Curator of Burgh House, Sophie Richards, comments: Once you start looking for it you realise how rare it is to see women of all ages in artworks living full, interesting, everyday lives. For me that is what makes the works of Motesiczky and Bohm so important. Both artists highlight everyday experiences of women, and with such poignancy and wit. I am delighted that the 2024 season at Burgh House will not only be celebrating these women, émigré, artists, but making visible the lives and experiences of the women they depicted.” 

Marie-Louise von Motesiczky: (in)Visible Women has been kindly funded by the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust. 

Marie-Louise von Motesiczky: (in)Visible Women
About Women: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm

Burgh House, New End Square, London, NW3 1LT
Thursday 7th March – Sunday 15th December 2024
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sundays, 10am-4pm
Admission Free
Social Media: @burghhouse1704

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