This portrait shows the short-story writer Mary Hutchinson. She was the mistress of Bell’s husband Clive, a fact of which Bell was aware. This may account for the unflattering nature of the portrait. When it was exhibited, to the sitter’s consternation, Vanessa Bell wrote ‘It’s perfectly hideous...and yet quite recognisable’.
The dazzling colours are reminiscent of work by Matisse – an artist Bell revered – and the French ‘Fauve’ painters.