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The sitter, Anne Olivier Popham, was a student of art history at the Courtauld Institute. In 1952 she married Quentin Bell and later edited the diaries of his aunt, Virginia Woolf. This portrait was painted at the same period as Claude Rogers's of Mrs Chilver. Comparison reveals the greater stillness, gravity and austerity of Bell's image, qualities in common with the art of William Coldstream, with whom he shared a studio at this time.

August 2004