Meredith Frampton

Marguerite Kelsey


Not on display

Meredith Frampton 1894–1984
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1208 × 1412 mm
frame: 1316 × 1518 × 59 mm
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1982

Display caption

A professional artist’s model in the 1920s and 1930s, Marguerite Kelsey (1908?–1995) was renowned for her gracefulness and ability to hold poses for a long time. Her dress and shoes were chosen and purchased by Frampton for this portrait. They are both classical and, being uncorseted, deliberately modern. The simple, short-sleeved pale tunic dress worn with low-heeled shoes and her straight hair were all essential elements of the fashionable boyish ‘garçonne style’ created by the couturiers Coco Chanel and Jean Patou from the mid-1920s.

Gallery label, October 2016

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Catalogue entry

T03415 Marguerite Kelsey 1928

Oil on canvas 47 1/2 × 55 5/8 (1208 × 1412)
Inscribed ‘19/MF/28’ t.r. and ‘MEREDITH FRAMPTON/90 CARLTON HILL. NW 8./LONDON/TITLE: WOMAN RECLINING’ on horizontal cross-bar of stretcher and ‘5 9 1/2 tall/without shoes/New/frame 55 × 47/Sopha. Bl Black/Indian (+ L Red)/Silence’ on reverse which also bears a drawing of a shoe with measurements and a drawing of a leg and shoe on a sofa with measurements, and also separate measurements
Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1982
Prov: Purchased from the artist by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1982
Exh: RA 1928 (702, as ‘Woman Reclining’); Salon Triennial de la Société Royale d'Encouragement des Beaux-Arts, Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts, Antwerp, November–December 1930 (126, as ‘Femme se reposant’); Meredith Frampton, Tate Gallery, February–March 1982, Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, April–May 1982 (12, repr. p.48 and in col. on cover; also repr. in col. on poster)
Lit: ‘A forgotten face’ in ‘Londoner's Diary’, The Standard, 16 February 1982 (detail repr.); Waldemar Januszczak, ‘Brightly through a microscope’, The Guardian, 24 February 1982; ‘Model return’, Daily Telegraph, 29 March 1982; ‘The girl in the portrait’, Mid-Sussex Times, 9 April 1982 (photograph repr. of the sitter standing in front of the portrait on 3 March 1982); Arts & Antiques, 16 April 1982 (the same photograph repr.); The Friends of the Tate Gallery Annual Report 1982–83, 1983; p.13 (repr.)
Also repr: Royal Academy Illustrated, 1928, p.106, as ‘Woman Reclining’; The Times, 5 May 1928, p.28, as ‘Woman Reclining’; Gordon Burn, ‘Meredith Frampton's late, late show’, Sunday Times Magazine, 21 February 1982, pp. 36–41, repr. in col. p.36; Frances Spalding, British Art since 1900, 1986, pl.67, p.82, in col.)

Painted in the artist's St John's Wood studio. In conversation in 1981 he told the compiler that the magnolias, obtained from the Richmond home of the actor-manager Sir John Martin-Harvey, had to be painted extremely fast as they did not long retain their form. He still owned the sofa at the time of his death. On the Tate's acquisition of this painting he wrote to the Director that it ‘was proposed as a Chantrey Purchase by Sir Walter Russell without success in 1928 when it was shown at the R.A. It is interesting that his hoped-for result has been achieved by other means over 50 years later’. The artist changed the title of this painting definitively to ‘Marguerite Kelsey’ during preparation of his Tate Gallery retrospective.

The sitter, a professional model, was in her late teens in 1928. When Meredith Frampton's retrospective opened at the Tate Gallery in 1982 she was the only still-living sitter represented in the exhibition who had not been traced. On seeing reviews of the exhibition, she contacted the Gallery and Meredith Frampton, and visited the exhibition, in which she was photographed with her portrait. One of the photographs was published twice (see reference above). Miss Kelsey had married and lived for many years in New Zealand, from where she returned to England not long before the Frampton exhibition opened.

Marguerite Kelsey wrote (letter, 23 June 1982) that Frampton:

was very kind to me when [I] kept the pose for so long, and I got worked up like him when he was painting the magnolias before they faded. He suffered from headaches and had to have good light. One day I was booked and it was a very grey light. He had to stop work ... In end if day did not improve he paid me and I went on to another artist.

In an interview with the compiler on 9 October 1985, Miss Kelsey added that as Frampton required a perfect light several sittings were abandoned. The painting required at least twelve and possibly as many as twenty-four sittings, which occurred about twice a week. They took place in the morning as Frampton tired easily and also wanted the model to be at her least tired. The pose was chosen in part because it was comfortable to maintain. The dress, for which she was measured, was made by the artist's mother, Lady Frampton, and the artist also provided the shoes.

At the same time Marguerite Kelsey recalled that she had been the model for as many as seven works, each by a different artist, in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in which the Tate's picture was first shown. The painter Jacomb-Hood had introduced her to Alan Beeton (for whom she was to work for ten years) who had in turn introduced her to Sir Gerald Kelly and it was he who introduced her to Frampton, to whom she had also been recommended independently by Sir William Reid Dick. She sat to all the artists mentioned in this paragraph except Kelly. Other artists to whom she sat included Dame Laura Knight, Augustus John, Sir William Russell Flint, A.R. Thompson, Arnold Mason, Harry Jonas, George Spencer Watson, Whitney Smith, Sir John Lavery, Henry Poole, F. Cadogan Cowper, Charles Shannon, Dame Ethel Walker, Sir Thomas Monnington and Mark Gertler. In Leonard Campbell-Taylor's well-known painting ‘The Sampler’ 1932 (Lady Lever Gallery, Port Sunlight) she was the model for the seated figure and also to some extent for the standing one. She was also the model for the Tate's 64 inch high bronze of a leaping nude, ‘Spring’ 1929–30 (N04548) by Sir Charles Wheeler.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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