The Autobiography of an Embryo, 1933-34; oil on board; 90 x 213.5 cm; Tate Gallery, London, England
Eileen Agar came to England from Argentina when she was five years old. An independent spirit, she rebelled against her prosperous Victorian upbringing, deciding at an early age that she wanted to be an artist. She was the first woman to join the Surrealist movement and her work featured in the International Surrealist Exhibition, London, 1936. Despite forming long and lasting friendships with her fellow Surrealists, Agar retained a certain distance from them. She used forms of nature to symbolize workings of the unconscious in her paintings and rejected the masculine notion of woman as muse. Her singular imagination was also developed through sculptures and assemblages. After painting The Autobiography of an Embryo, Agar was asked how she, who had never had a child, could now anything about it. The artist replied that the girl having the child does not know what is happening inside her, but what was important was to record such extraordinary metamorphosis. The four panels of this large narrative painting are intended to be read from left to right. The circles divide like cells in the process of creation.
Anson, Libby and Hodge, Nicole (2002). The A-Z of Art (p. 8). Dubai: Carlton Books