Ethel Sands

Flowers in a Jug


Not on display

Ethel Sands 1873–1962
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 550 × 460 × 18 mm
frame: 678 × 588 × 45 mm
Bequeathed by Colonel Christopher Sands 2000, accessioned 2001


Ethel Sands was born in America, but grew up in Britain. She was wealthy, and owned houses in Chelsea, at Newington near Oxford and at Auppegard in Normandy, where Flowers in a Jug was probably painted. She was encouraged by the painter Walter Sickert (1860-1942), whom she had met first in 1906 when he expressed admiration for a picture she had sent to the Salon d'Automne in Paris and who had pursued her acquaintance. The following year Sickert invited her to join his newly-created Fitzroy Street Group which sought to promote a form of Impressionist naturalism in Britain. In the years 1906 to 1914 Sands was an important literary and artistic patron, and her house was one of the social centres of modern art in London.

Sands's own painting was of a mild Anglo-French type comparable with that of her friend Jacques-Emile Blanche (1861-1942), although the late Impressionist control of colour Flowers in a Jug is comparable too with the pictures of Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940). The mantelpiece still life arrangement, and the visual conceit of the reflected image within the painting, are reminiscent of a small number of pictures by Sickert and some members of the Camden Town Group, such as Spencer Gore (1878-1914) with which Sands is likely to have been familiar.

Further reading:
Wendy Baron, Miss Ethel Sands and her Circle, London, 1977

Robert Upstone
February 2002

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Catalogue entry


Ethel Sands specialised in painting domestic interiors, still lifes and flower subjects, all of which are combined in her painting Flowers in a Jug. The work shows a large blue jug containing blue, purple and red flowers standing on a mantelpiece beside a small shallow bowl. Behind the ornaments is a large mirror with a gilt frame in which is reflected a view of an open window surrounded by a lilac pelmet and curtains, creating an illusion of space and depth. The location of the picture is not recorded but the appearance of the interior indicates that it was probably painted at the Château d’Auppegard, Nan Hudson’s seventeenth-century country house near Dieppe, which she had purchased in 1920 (see Tate T07810). Sands joined her friend at Auppegard every summer and together they carefully refurbished and decorated the entire house. The writer Virginia Woolf, visiting in 1927, described it as ‘a very narrow house, all window, laid with pale bright Samarcand rugs, & painted greens and blues, with lovely “pieces”, & great pots of carefully designed flowers arranged by Loomas [the butler]’.1
In an article in Vogue in 1923, Allan Walton wrote that the hall and the drawing room of Auppegard were panelled with ‘old, painted woodwork of pale, warm grey’,2 part of which seems to be visible to the left of the mirror frame in Sands’s painting. The ornate marble mantelpiece is in keeping with a period building on the scale of the château and the partially open, large window festooned with lilac curtains is also suggestive of the carefully chosen fabrics installed by the two women at Auppegard. The house had an unusually large number of windows on both the ground and first floor, making the building extremely light inside. The style of the windows, which were ‘glazed with old Dutch glass of greenish colour’,3 matches the appearance of the window in the painting, with multiple square panes within a wooden framework opening in the middle.4 Sands produced a number of paintings of both the exterior and interior of Auppegard, for example A Spare Room, Château d’Auppegard c.1925 (Government Art Collection),5 Girl Sewing, Auppegard c.1920–5 (private collection),6 and a view of the drawing room entitled The White Clock c.1930 (private collection).7 She also painted a portrait of Hudson at the house during the 1930s (private collection).8 Flowers in a Jug is probably a view of one of the ground-floor rooms, painted during the 1920s.

Nicola Moorby
July 2003


Anne Olivier Bell (ed.), The Diary of Virginia Woolf, vol.3, London 1980, p.151.
Allan Walton, ‘The Château d’Auppegard, a Louis Quatorze Country House’, Vogue, November 1923, p.50.
Reproduced at Government Art Collection,, accessed July 2003.
Reproduced in The Painters of Camden Town 1905–1920, exhibition catalogue, Christie’s, London 1988 (114).
Paintings by Ethel Sands, Warren Gallery, London 1931 (19).
Miss Ethel Sands and her Circle, Fine Art Society, London 1977 (22).
Quoted in Wendy Baron, Miss Ethel Sands and her Circle, London 1977, p.252.
Regina Marler (ed.), Selected Letters of Vanessa Bell, New York 1993, p.320.
Wyndham Lewis and Louis F. Fergusson, Harold Gilman: An Appreciation, London 1919, p.29.
Reproduced in Modern Painters: The Camden Town Group, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2008 (47).
Reproduced in Wendy Baron, Perfect Moderns: A History of the Camden Town Group, Aldershot and Vermont 2000, no.61.
Wendy Baron, The Camden Town Group, London 1979, p.140.
Helen C. Long, The Edwardian House: The Middle Class House in Britain 1880–1914, Manchester and New York 1993, p.102.
Ibid., p.104.
Reproduced in From Sickert to Gertler: Modern British Art from Boxted House, exhibition catalogue, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh 2008 (25).
Walter Sickert, ‘Idealism’, Art News, 12 May 1910, p.217, in Anna Gruetzner Robins, Walter Sickert: The Complete Writings on Art, Oxford 2000, p.229.
Sotheby’s, Wiltshire, 15 October 1987, lot 713, reproduced.
Westminster Gazette, 16 February 1922, quoted in Baron 1977, p.168.
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.89.

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