Isokon Gallery / Agatha Christie and the modernist war years

For 2021/22, Isokon Gallery presents an exhibition on perhaps the Isokon’s most renowned resident, Agatha Christie: the Lawn Road Years.

Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. During her long career, she wrote 66 detective novels, 14 short story collections and over 30 plays. The most famous, The Mousetrap, is the longest running in the world, having debuted in 1952. Her books have sold over a billion copies in the English language and a billion in translation. She lived in the Isokon building between 1941 and 1947.

To celebrate Agatha Christie: the Lawn Road Years, Isokon Gallery is stocking a range of Christie accessories in their shop.

Isokon Gallery web site: https://isokongallery.org/

Exhibition researched and written by Leyla Daybelge.

With thanks to The Christie Archive Trust and Agatha Christie Ltd.

Learn more about Christie’s time at the Isokon in this short film, presented by John Allan, .

source: The Isokon Gallery

The Isokon Building

The Lawn Road Flats – also known as the Isokon Building – was the creation of Jack & Molly Pritchard and architect Wells Coates. It was the first modernist block of flats in Britain and pioneered the idea of minimalist, stylish city living. The compact ‘minimum flats’ occupy only 24m², whilst its restaurant and bar, the Isobar, provided a social hub for artists and intellectuals.

source: The Isokon Gallery

In latter years the building fell into an acute state of disrepair but was saved through an award-winning rescue and restoration project. Today it continues to provide a home to residents, including number of flats under shared ownership for key workers. The building is Grade I Listed, one of only handful from this era to be offered this level of protection.

Artists, Architects, Authors and Spies

Jack and Molly Pritchard occupied the rooftop penthouse and were instrumental in assisting and accommodating notable émigrés fleeing pre-war Europe. Isokon residents from this period included: Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus; Marcel Breuer, designer of modernist furniture; and László Maholy-Nagy, head teacher of art at the Bauhaus school. The three Bauhaus masters are now honoured with an English Heritage Blue Plaque.

The building also attracted tenants like Arnold Deutsch, the NKVD (KGB) spy and recruiter of the Cambridge Five (a group which included Kim Philby). Between 1941 and 1947 the building was the home of Agatha Christie, a productive period of her life when she wrote several famous novels, plays and her autobiography.

Isokon Furniture

Jack Pritchard created the Isokon Furniture Company in the early 1930s and enlisted Coates, Gropius, Breuer, Egon Riss and later Ernest Race as designers. Isokon furniture pioneered the use bent plywood, with notable designs including Breuer’s Long Chair and Riss’s Penguin Donkey.

source: The Isokon Gallery

The Isokon Gallery opened in 2014 in the building’s former garage. The story of Isokon is told through texts contributed by leading experts on the period, a number of original artefacts and the recreation of an original bathroom and kitchen.

Every year, the gallery hosts a seasonal display on a subject related to the Isokon. Our 2021 exhibition tells the story of celebrated author and Isokon resident Agatha Christie.

A version of the permanent exhibition has travelled to Tallinn, Helsinki and Marseille.

The Isokon Gallery is free to enter and is created and staffed by volunteers. A registered charity, it relies on donations and proceeds from the shop to care for the collection and ensure it remains free for everyone to discover and enjoy. Learn more about donating.

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