Radium Dreams is a unique collaboration between award-winning poet Sue Hubbard and internationally acclaimed artist Eileen Cooper RA who together illuminate the struggles and triumphs of one of the most brilliant women of modern times.
The exhibition showcases a series of poems and artworks inspired by the remarkable life story of the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Marie Curie. Sue Hubbard’s poems and Eileen Cooper’s drawings and collages conjure Curie’s remarkable life through closely observed moments of struggle, tenderness and joy.
The exhibition explores the theme of creative support: between Marie Curie and her sister Bronislawa, and between the scientist and her husband Pierre. This is reflected in the collaboration between a poet and artist and resonates with The Women’s Art Collection, which was created by women in a Cambridge college dedicated to educating academically outstanding young women.
Both Sue Hubbard and Eileen Cooper have played a key role in the development of The Women’s Art Collection. As an art critic Hubbard has regularly written about the Collection, while Cooper was one of the first artists to donate work and was made an Honorary Fellow of Murray Edwards in 2017. In Radium Dreams, Hubbard’s interest in the lives of historic women comes together with Cooper’s powerful and distinctive iconography of female figures.
Born in Warsaw in 1867 as Maria Sklodowska, Marie Curie emigrated to Paris aged 24 following her elder sister Bronisława. There she earned her higher degrees and married the French physicist Pierre Curie. In 1903 they jointly won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their pioneering work developing the theory of “radioactivity”, a term coined by Marie.
Marie Curie independently won the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery of the elements polonium and radium. Despite these successes, she struggled to fulfil her ambitions throughout her life: as an impoverished Polish woman studying in Paris and as a researcher in a male-dominated field. Her recognition was a result of her own steadfastness, as well as the support of those around her.
Sue Hubbard is a poet, novelist and art critic. She has published four collections of poetry and was twice winner of The London Writers Competition. As the Poetry Society’s Public Art Poet she was commissioned by the BFI and Arts Council to create London’s largest public art poem, titled Eurydice. She has written three novels and her fourth, Flatlands, is published by Pushkin Press and Mecure de France in 2023. As an art critic she has written for Time Out, The Independent on Sunday, The Independent, The New Statesman and The London Magazine. She is senior writer for Artlyst and has appeared regularly on the BBC and Sky News.
Artist Eileen Cooper is known for her passionate commitment to figuration. Having studied at Goldsmiths and the Royal College of Art she has taught at a wide range of art schools including Central St Martins and the Royal Academy Schools, where she was elected an Academician in 2000. From 2010-17 she was Keeper of the Royal Academy, the first woman to be elected to this role since the RA began in 1768.
Originally from the Peak District, Eileen Cooper has exhibited widely in the UK and internationally. Her work is held in many prestigious collections including the Arts Council Collection, the British Museum, Manchester City Art Gallery, The Women’s Art Collection and now the Tate. She was made an OBE in 2016 and is an honorary fellow of Murray Edwards College and the Royal College of Art.