Fatal Attraction: Lilith and her Sisters: Lilith. Aphrodite. Medusa. Helen of Troy. Cleopatra.

27 July 2020  –  27 March 2021

Ancient cultures have bequeathed to us a legacy of female characters in art, history, and literature who have been described as ‘femme fatales’. The femme fatale is beautiful and dangerous in equal measure. Like the sirens of Homer’s Odyssey, she tempts the hero of the story whilst endangering his heroic quest – and even his life.

It is a story of femininity that has been created and perpetuated by male artists and writers for much of history – from Homer to the Hollywood directors of the golden age of cinema. For thousands of years the femme fatale has been a figure to be admired for her beauty, but morally condemned for her vanity, criminality, or deviance.

John Collier’s ‘Lilith’ depicts Lilith – the first wife of Adam in the Jewish tradition – as a classic femme fatale. Lilith is shown nude, as an object of desire, but her figure is draped with a snake to signify temptation and sin.

“When the first man, Adam, saw that he was alone, God made for him a woman like himself, from the earth. God called her Lilith, and brought her to Adam. The immediately began to quarrel. Adam said: ‘You lie beneath me’. And Lilith said: ‘You lie beneath me! We are both equal, for both of us are from the same earth’. And they would not listen to one another. As soon as Lilith saw this, she uttered the Divine name and flew up into the air and fled”(Genesis Rabbah, 300-500 CE)

This exhibition explores the long history of the femme fatale and her transformation from a symbol of patriarchal power to the hero of her own story.


Further information:
  • Restricted opening times Monday – Saturday, 11.00 am – 4.00 pm; closed Sundays and bank Holidays
  • Free admission
  • Location:  The Atkinson, Lord Street, Southport PR8 1DB
  • Getting there: By Road: from the South take the M6 to exit 26; the M58 will take you to Ormskirk and then take the A570 to Southport; from the North follow the A59 from Preston (exit 31 from the M6) and then follow the signs to Southport. By Train: Southport station is just three minutes walk from the venue. Northern Rail operates regular services to Southport from Manchester Airport, Manchester (Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria stations), Bolton and Wigan; By Bus: Merseytravel operate a number of bus services to and from Southport
  • Contact 01704 533333