Sir Lawrence Gowing

Mrs Roberts


Not on display

Sir Lawrence Gowing 1918–1991
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 406 × 508 mm
frame: 560 × 660 × 95 mm
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1945

Display caption

A student at the Euston Road School, Lawrence Gowing attended throughout its existence. This later portrait of Mrs Ellen Roberts, the Gowings' cleaning lady, was painted at their home in Paultons Square, Chelsea. In 1945 the Daily Sketch reported the sitter's comments: 'It's me, isn't it? Perhaps in another hundred years I will be hanging in a national museum'. In 1983 Sir Lawrence described Mrs Roberts as 'gaunt and gracious'. He also recalled how, when studying the work of Masaccio at that time, he 'realised that not only the transverse lighting but the unidealised sympathy and the visual authenticity that I prized in painting were all his invention'.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

N05627 MRS ROBERTS 1944
Inscr. ‘Gowing 44’ b.r.
Canvas, 16×20 (40·5×50·5).
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1945.
Exh: Leicester Galleries, March 1945 (56).
Repr: John Russell, From Sickert to 1948, 1948, pl.76.

The portrait was painted at 8 Paultons Square, Chelsea, where the artist was living in 1943–4. Mrs Ellen Roberts, aged forty, was his charwoman and he liked her resolute expression so much that he asked her to pose for him. When it was exhibited a photograph of her together with a reproduction of the picture appeared in the Daily Sketch, 10 March 1945. She said it was a little bewildering to find her blue-and-white spotted dress changed to green.

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

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