William Roberts

Esther Lahr


Not on display

William Roberts 1895–1980
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 508 × 406 mm
Presented by Charles Lahr in memory of Esther Lahr 1970

Display caption

During the 1920s and 1930s Roberts received a number of portrait commissions including one from Charles Lahr for this portrait of his wife. Esther Lahr (1898-1970) was a close friend of the artist's wife Sarah. Born Esther Argeband, in London, of Jewish refugee parents, Mrs Lahr changed her name to Archer before her marriage in 1922. Prior to her wedding, Mrs Lahr purchased a bookshop at 68 Red Lion Street which she subsequently ran with her husband. This portrait hung in the Blue Moon Bookshop from 1925 to 1940 when the picture was removed to the sitter's Muswell Hill home.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

T01184 ESTHER LAHR 1925

Inscribed ‘Roberts’ t.l.

Canvas, 20×16 (51×40.5).
Presented in memory of the sitter by Mr Charles Lahr 1970.
Coll: Commissioned by Mr Charles Lahr.

Esther Lahr, née Argeband (10 December 1898–12 January 1970), was born in London of Jewish refugees from persecution and before marriage changed her name, with others of her family, to Archer. Shortly after buying, from Harold Edwards, the bookshop at 68 Red Lion Street, WC1, she married Charles Lahr in 1922. Together they ran the bookshop which was known as the Blue Moon Bookshop.

At the time the portrait was painted, Mr and Mrs Lahr were living off Lamb's Conduit Street, WC1. Mrs Lahr, a friend of Sarah Roberts (née Kramer), the artist's wife, went frequently to the Roberts' home at Haverstock Hill. In 1925 Mr and Mrs Lahr published from their bookshop the first of the six issues of the quarterly magazine of art and literature, The New Coterie, for which all the cover designs were by William Roberts. No. 2 (Spring 1926) contains a reproduction, opposite p. 64, of a pastel sketch of Esther Lahr by Jacob Kramer.

From 1925 to 1940, T1184 hung in the Blue Moon Bookshop, which was destroyed by bombing shortly after the picture's removal to the sitter's Muswell Hill home.

The notes above are compiled from information provided by the sitter's daughter, Miss Oonagh Lahr (28 April 1970), who added that her mother, as well as running the bookshop, of which she was for many years the business head, ‘was also active politically and in the Trade Union Movement before her marriage and after. Her literary ambitions lost out to family pressures’.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1968-70, London 1970


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