Frank Dobson

Sir Osbert Sitwell, Bt

1923

On display at Tate Britain

Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
Object: 318 x 178 x 229 mm, 9.8 kg
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the executors of T.E. Lawrence 1950
Reference
N05938

Display caption

Frank Dobson was a sculptor and painter associated with the post-impressionist and, briefly, vorticist movements in Britain. In 1921 he met Osbert Sitwell (1892–1969), an establishment figure and writer of short stories, travel books, essays, poetry and art criticism, who sat for him for three months. During one of the sittings, Sitwell met TE Lawrence, known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, who bought the bust and later bequeathed it to the Tate. Lawrence described it as ‘appropriate, authentic and magnificent, in my eyes. I think it’s his finest piece of portraiture and in addition it’s as loud as the massed bands of the Guards.’

Gallery label, September 2016

Catalogue entry

N05938 SIR OSBERT SITWELL, BT. 1923
 
Not inscribed.
Polished brass, 12 1/2×7×9 (32×18×23).
Presented by the Executors of T.E. Lawrence in accordance with his wishes 1960.
Coll: Purchased by T.E. Lawrence from the artist 1923 and lent to the Tate Gallery from 1923 until presented.
Exh: Venice Biennale, 1928 (British Pavilion, 32, repr. pl.112).
Lit: John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, 1958, p.190, repr. pl.16.
Repr: Mortimer, 1926, pl.2; E. H. Ramsden, Twentieth Century Sculpture, 1949, pl.6; E. H. Ramsden, Sculpture: Theme and Variations, 1953, pl.44b; Sir John Rothenstein, British Art since 1900, 1962, pl.93.

Sir Osbert Sitwell, 5th Bt. (b. 1892), writer of short stories, travel books, essays, poetry and art criticism. Trustee of the Tate Gallery, 1951–8. C.B.E. 1956. Brother of Edith and Sacheverell Sitwell.

In his initial letter offering the head T. E. Lawrence, writing under the name of J. H. Ross, said (5 February 1923): ‘Another insidious attempt to embroil you with Mr F. Emanuel! Dobson the sculptor (14 Trafalgar Studios, Manresa Road, Chelsea) did a head in polished brass of Osbert Sitwell. Appropriate, authentic and magnificent, in my eyes. I think it's his finest piece of portraiture and in addition it's as loud as the massed bands of the Guards.’ Frank Emanuel, the painter (q.v.), was carrying on a campaign against modern art.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

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