Malcolm Drummond

Girl with Palmettes


Malcolm Drummond 1880–1945
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 498 × 403 mm
frame: 489 × 591 × 44 mm
Purchased 1966

Display caption

Like other members of the Camden Town Group, Drummond was influenced by the vibrant colours used by Post-impressionist artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Henri Matisse. Patches of bright pigment used to suggest shadow on the face, and the orange band around the sitter’s broad-brimmed hat echo the colours of the palm leaves or ‘palmettes’ in the background. In the early twentieth century, it was customary for women to wear a hat in public places, and the sitter’s clothing is characteristic of the urban middle class. This is thought to be a portrait of Drummond’s wife Zina.

Gallery label, January 2018

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Catalogue entry


The title of Malcolm Drummond’s visually striking portrait, Girl with Palmettes, was not the artist’s own but one bestowed upon it by the art dealer, Kyril Bonfiglioli, for an exhibition of Drummond’s work in Oxford in 1965. The painting depicts the head and shoulders of a young woman wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a tailored coat with a pale frilled collar. She faces directly out of the painting at the viewer. Behind her is a cream-coloured wall upon which, just visible in the top right-hand corner of the painting hangs a framed and mounted picture. The identity of the ‘Girl’ had remained a mystery until recently, when descendants of the artist’s first wife, Zina Ogilvie (1887–1931), suggested that it represents a portrait of her.1 Comparison of photographs of Zina (figs.1 and 2) and another painting of her by Drummond reveal a certain facial similarity to the sitter.2

Bonfiglioli’s title draws attention to the most distinctive aspect of the work, the brightly coloured mural frieze, which is partially obscured by the head of the woman. A palmette is a decorative moulding or painting in the form of a stylised palm leaf. The visible portion of the frieze is composed of two large fan shaped palmette motifs linked by the representation of an animal, probably a lion, of which only the head and legs can be seen. The design appears to be painted on to the plaster of the wall in the manner of a stencil. Unfortunately, despite the distinctive appearance of the background, the setting for Girl with Palmettes has never been identified. It was not recognised by Drummond’s daughter from his first marriage, or the artist’s second wife, Margaret, who did, however, raise the suggestion that ‘the decorative motifs could have been in a “pub” in the neighbourhood of his studio in Yeoman’s Row, Chelsea’.3 A further possibility is that this design is part of an original and experimental scheme decorating a private, domestic room similar to that in another undated painting by Drummond, Interior (private collection).4 In this work the viewer looks through an open door to a passageway which is decorated with a horizontal frieze border characterised by repeated blocks of colour with a semi-circular fan-like motif. The setting in Interior is also unknown, but, furnished with a chair and an umbrella stand, it looks like the hallway of a house. Drummond’s interiors often contain visual references to artistic practice, either in the form of paintings hanging in the background or in the depiction of a particularly noticeable feature of the décor, such as the highly coloured floral cloth covering the grand piano in At the Piano c.1912 (fig.3), or the painted panels and glass lanterns of the Hammersmith Palais de Danse 1920 (Plymouth City Art Museum and Art Gallery).5

Nicola Moorby
April 2008


Information supplied to the author by Fiona McIntyre, email correspondence, 26 April 2008, Tate Catalogue file.
Photographs in Tate Catalogue file.
Margaret Drummond, letter to Tate Gallery, 21 March 1969, Tate Catalogue file.
Agnew’s, November 1972 (17); photograph in Tate Catalogue file.
Reproduced in The Painters of Camden Town 1905–1920, exhibition catalogue, Christie’s, London 1988 (198).
Wendy Baron, The Camden Town Group, London 1979, p.344.
Quentin Bell, Malcolm Drummond 1880–1945, exhibition catalogue, Arts Council, London 1963, [p.5].
Reproduced in Modern Painters: The Camden Town Group, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2008 (48).
Information supplied by Lucy Johnston, Furniture, Textiles and Fashion Department, Victoria and Albert Museum, June 2003.
Reproduced in Tate Britain 2008 (52).
Fiona Clark, Hats, London 1982, p.86.
Colin McDowell, Hats: Status, Style and Glamour, London 1992, p.148.
Ibid., p.344.
Reproduced in Christie’s 1988 (165).
See Nicola Moorby, ‘Portrait/Figure/Type’, in Tate Britain 2008, p.97.

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