Rediscovered: Marguerite McBey’s Lost Sketches

TALIM Paul Bowles Marguerite McBey

Paul Bowles by Marguerite McBey

TALIM McBey Ex Libris 3The following guest post is by TALIM intern Marthe Krokowski of the University of Leipzig.  Marthe has created the newest exhibit at TALIM's museum, which includes James McBey-illustrated books donated by Jean-Marc Maillard and Jean-Daniel Polier.

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TALIM John Carter Vincent by Marguerite McBeyAs mentioned in TALIMblog last May in a post about John Carter Vincent (right, by Marguerite McBey),
a long forgotten box with donated sketchbooks, photo-albums and
exhibition invitations of the Tangier American artist Marguerite McBey was uncovered in a
Legation storeroom. This precious find gave me the opportunity to go through
the material and – by presenting a small selection of it to the public – to give
Marguerite McBey the place in the TALIM museum she deserves.

As a student of art
history, I know about the difficulties in presenting art: on one hand you
should not overwhelm people with too many items and information about the
subject, but on the other hand you want to show different sides of a topic and its
diversity. The key is to make people curious. I hope that my composition of the
work is self-explanatory, but I take this opportunity to write a little bit
about my intention.

My aim was to present the
artist Marguerite McBey through her own sketches. First, of course, there is
the self-portrait – showing the artist how she saw herself, and maybe how she
wanted to be seen by others.

Since Marguerite McBey was
an inveterate traveler almost her whole life, landscapes, cultures and people of
the countries she has been to formed her “artist’s eye.”  Hence a look at
her work from this point of view.

Then we have some portraits.
Artists, writers, intellectuals; people she met during her life and captured on
paper, people with whom she linked in Tangier’s international community. An
annotation next to the portrait of Duncan Grant (of the Bloomsbury Group),
gives an interesting impression of Marguerite McBey's inside life and her
doubts of being an artist.

TALIM McBey photos James' studyA photograph shows another
person who had a great influence on her: her husband, the famous Scottish
etcher James McBey. He brought her to Morocco in 1932, with him she traveled
around the world, with him she shared the same lover for a time, with him she
led an unconventional life. There has been no study yet to what extent James
McBey's art influenced Marguerite McBey's art work – and I want to point out,
that it is in no way my intention to compare the selected sketches of
Marguerite McBey with the etchings and paintings of her husband in the same

Marguerite McBey began to exhibit her work only after the death of her
husband, and one could guess it was a huge struggle to step out of the shadow
of her husband and to become an independent artist whose work stands by itself.
But she did it; she exhibited in Morocco, in the US and Europe. The comments
from a visitors book show how much her work was appreciated – she was accepted
as an artist.

Looking through the material
and thinking about how to present it, I discovered a self-aware woman, eager to
experience the world and to discover herself, to express herself and show
people how she saw life around her. And that's what I hope the chosen sketches
can represent.

Marthe Krokowski

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