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The poet Edith Sitwell was heavily satirised in The Apes of God 1930, although Lewis had been close to her and her brothers Osbert and Sacheverell in the early 1920s. They became the epitome of the amateur 'tyros' whom Lewis resented and attacked as a sign of cultural decline and vulgarity. The early sittings for this portrait were fraught with problems, such as Lewis's 'alarming' behaviour, and in the end Sitwell refused to sit any more. She becomes a beautifully painted, chilly, empty doll, deprived of the slender hands she was so proud of, and immortalised as a vulnerable, supercilious and child-like puppet.

August 2004