Jacob Kramer

Dorothy Parker


Not on display

Jacob Kramer 1892–1962
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 762 × 641 mm
Presented by Mr John Parker 1985

Catalogue entry

Jacob Kramer 1892 - 1962

T03965 Dorothy Parker 1928

Oil on canvas 762 x 635 (30 x 25)
Inscribed ‘Portrait of Mrs George Parker | No.1 | Jacob Kramer | 6 LITTLE WOODHOUSE ST | LEEDS' on top stretcher bar and ‘This portrait of Dorothy Parker was painted in the | House Elwynick,St ANTHONY IN ROSELAND, Portscatho | TRURO CORNWALL in AUGUST 1928 by JACOB KRAMER' on left stretcher bar
Presented by Mr John Parker 1985
Prov: Mr John Parker 1975, by descent from his mother Dorothy Parker
Exh: Long term loan from George Parker to Leeds City Art Gallery, Aug. 1930-Oct. 1932; Jacob Kramer, Leeds City Art Gallery, Sept.-Oct. 1960 (26)
Lit: Millie Kramer, Jacob Kramer: A Memorial Volume, 1969, p.29; J.D. Roberts (ed.), The Kramer Documents, Valencia 1983, pp.175-6

The commissioning of this portrait and the details of its execution are described in the entry for T03964. Dorothy Parker, née Crossland (1896-1975), was born in Leeds. Her family then moved to York where she lived until the age of seventeen, moving to London to train at Battersea Polytechnic to become a domestic science teacher. She taught this subject from 1918 at Thoresby High School in Leeds, in which city she met her future husband George Parker, the sitter in T03964. They married in November 1920. Dorothy Parker was an accomplished amateur pianist and accompanied her husband in German Lieder at home. Their son, John Parker, believes that when George Parker commissioned Jacob Kramer to paint his wife during their stay at St. Anthony in Roseland in August 1928, the agreed fee was £200. In the archives of Leeds City Art Gallery are two letters from George Parker to Mr Lambert, Director of the Gallery, which provide some details about the loan of T03965 to Leeds. One dated 2 September 1930 relates that Parker brought the painting to Leeds the previous week, where he left it with Jacob Kramer, who had expressed a wish ‘to sign it and varnish it afresh' before delivery to the Gallery. Although Kramer painted T03964 and T03965 concurrently during the stay in Cornwall, T03964 has no inscription documenting its execution while T03965 has full details inscribed on the back of the canvas. This letter of 2 September 1930 can most probably be taken as evidence that Kramer inscribed the details on the back of T03965 not in 1928 when it was painted, but in September 1930 when it was about to be displayed in Leeds City Art Gallery. This may be why it also includes Kramer's address in Leeds. A second letter from George Parker to Mr Lambert discussed the matter of the length of the loan, the insurance of the picture and Parker’s opinion of it:

I wrote to Jacob about the amount of the insurance of the picture and he said £100 so perhaps you will insure it for this. Regarding the length of time I am willing to lend it to you I have no fixed idea in my mind... so I should be glad if you would insure it for one year and continue at the year end if you still have it. I take it it will not be a big premium so that if I decided I would like you to return it say in 9 months there would not be much loss in the amount of the premium.

I am interested in what you say regarding the picture. [Simply] as a portrait I have not looked on it, but my wife feels it expresses her. We have a friend who is a great art expert and immediately she saw it she was very much impressed and she told us that the words ‘but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart' came to her mind. During the two years I have had it the impression it makes has much deepened in me. Jacob is at the moment engaged downstairs on another oil portrait of my wife [Tate Gallery Archive]. It promises to be more realistic as a portrait but with the ‘Kramer' impress on it. If you are in London anytime and would care to come and see us here [in Hatch End, Middlesex] we should be glad to see you and show you what examples we have of Jacob's art. I think we have about fourteen including one in oils of myself which nobody seems to exactly like but which I think is very fine. [For this portrait, see entry for T03964]

Through Yorkshire connections, George Parker became acquainted with Herbert Read, the eminent art critic, lecturer and poet. John Parker told the compiler how his father treasured a statement made by Read in front of T03965: ‘It is as fine a portrait as anything that has been painted in the first half of the twentieth century'. It is believed that Read made this statement in 1943, the year in which his book Education Through Art was published. At that time Read lived with his family at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.

In 1957 George Parker again considered offering T03965 on loan to a public gallery; he wrote on 14 October to Sir John Rothenstein, then Director of the Tate Gallery, and a supporter of the work of Kramer since his time as Director of Leeds City Art Gallery from 1932-34, about the fact that the artist was not yet represented at the Tate and suggested: ‘I have an oil painting, portrait, by Kramer which was painted over 29 years since. I was greatly disappointed when I first saw it. Since then I have liked it more and more and now am convinced it is a masterpiece. If at any time you are near Hitchin I should be happy to show it to you.' No loan arrangement was made for T03965 to come to the Tate in 1957. Two letters from George Parker to Jacob Kramer (published in Roberts (ed.) 1983, pp.175-6), reveal that in 1959 Parker was still trying to find a public home for T03965. The first letter, of 10 January 1959, describes the state of the painting:

You will be pleased to hear that I have had the portrait of Dorothy varnished as you suggested and it has much improved the look of it. Also I have again put glass in the frame and I think this makes the picture look still more wonderful. It is getting to look like an old master.

The second letter, dated February 27 1959, was sent in reply to one from Kramer, who was at that time unwell and in Leeds Infirmary:

You have been much in my thought these last few days and I have wondered about the possibility of submitting your oil painting to the Royal Academy. I feel it is so wrong that there is no example of your work to be seen in public galleries in London, when there is so much utter rubbish shown. It has been much on my mind for a few weeks that I should write to Lilian Browse about showing your portrait of Dorothy. You will not remember that when it was first done I was VERY DISAPPOINTED with it. Now, however, I think it is one of the most wonderful pictures in the world and nothing would make me change my opinion about this.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.202-4


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