Discover the real Agatha Christie with Rarely seen objects and photographs at the Unfinished Portrait exhibition
Curator, Alice Graham, has worked closely with the Agatha Christie Archive and family to produce a touring exhibition - Agatha Christie: Unfinished Portrait - which opens at Torre Abbey museum (12 Sep-25 Nov) in Torquay as part of the International Agatha Christie Festival. Inside you’ll find a whole new side to Agatha Christie with rarely seen objects and intimate photos of her life and told in her own words. Watch this video with Alice Graham to find out more.
“The exhibition has toured around the UK, and we've had a very positive response. I think the nicest thing that one visitor said to me was I feel like I've sat on the sofa and had a cup of tea with Agatha Christie and flicked through her family album and that's really what we wanted visitors to feel when they leave the exhibition.
So this project is called Agatha Christie: Unfinished Portrait because Agatha wrote a book called an Unfinished Portrait. She wrote it under the pseudonym of Mary Westmacott, and it is believed to be semi-autobiographical. What she did in her life was not that well-known; we like the idea that Unfinished Portrait had a little bit of mystery about it.
Agatha Christie was born in Torquay in 1890 and she lived in Torquay throughout the majority of her childhood. This exhibition I feel really shows her as a young woman, which is something we don't often see she was very sporty, she was interested in surfing, she loved cars, she played tennis all these things. So in this exhibition you see pictures of her world…. her at dance class, she was a very talented musician, she enjoyed embroidery, she had lots and lots of hobbies and she was a very fun-loving young lady.
Many of the objects in the show have rarely been seen on public display which is very exciting. We've curated special objects for this show in Torquay, and lots of those haven't been on public display. So they include pictures of Agatha's daughter - a lovely photograph of her, that she kept with her, with her portable photograph of her daughter - and we've got pictures of her in music classes here in Torquay and lots more to see.
In order to put this exhibition together, I worked very closely with the Agatha Christie archive and with Agatha Christie's grandson. It was very important to really understand the character of Agatha and bring that out through the exhibition, so there was a lot of work done in trying to understand her character before we even began. I had the privilege of searching the archive for photographs to represent her entire life and also looking through all her papers, her letters, everything she wrote really, if it's in her private archive to put quotes together with the pictures. So the idea is you feel like Agatha is actually showing you around the exhibition.
I've become very fond of Agatha through the process of curating this exhibition. She was such a fun lady, and she's sort of like the grandma we all want really. You know she had this amazing career, but actually, behind the scenes, she was loving and great fun. I think what I've taken away really from curating it, is it seems to me whatever happens in life, the words of Agatha Christie come back into my head and I think ‘oh yeah that's what Agatha would have said, that's what Agatha would have thought’. It's had quite a big impact on me really and I’m very very fond of her.” - Alice Graham, Curator of the Unfinished Portrait exhibition
The Unfinished Portrait exhibition is on display at Torre Abbey museum from the 12 September and throughout the autumn until 25 November 2019. Normal admission applies. This is part of the International Agatha Christie Festival - 12-15 September 2019 - a packed literary themed programme of theatre, tours, talks, mystery and more. For more info about the festival and to book tickets, visit their website.