Sydney Starr

A Study


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Not on display

Sydney Starr 1857–1925
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 455 × 355 mm
Presented anonymously in memory of Sir Terence Rattigan 1983

Catalogue entry

T03643 A STUDY c. 1887

Oil on canvas 18 × 14 (455 × 355)
Inscribed on reverse of canvas ‘A STUDY|Sidney Starr|38 Abercorn Place|Abbey Road,|N.W.’
Presented anonymously in memory of Terence Rattigan 1983
Prov: ...; Walter Sickert by 1889, given to Miss Florence Pash, later Mrs Humphrey Holland, sold to Rex Nan Kivell of the Redfern Gallery; ...; ? Roland, Browse and Delbanco, sold August 1954 to H.E. Bates; H.E. Bates, sold March 1960 to Roland, Browse and Delbanco, sold April 1960 to the donor
Exh: ?Royal Society of British Artists, winter 1887–8 (368, as ‘A Study’); London Impressionists, Goupil Gallery, December 1889 (5, as ‘Portrait Sketch’, and as lent by Brandon Thomas); Sidney Starr Memorial Exhibition, Goupil Gallery, June 1926 (22, as ‘Portrait Sketch’); The Early Years of the New English Art Club, City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, July–August 1952 (92, as ‘A Woman in a Basket Chair’, and as lent by John Russell); Plaisirs de L'Epoque, Redfern Gallery, December 1954–January 1955 (49, as ‘Le Repos’)

The inscription on the back of the canvas gives some clue as to when this picture was first exhibited. Starr lived at Abercorn Place 1883–9. Works exhibited as ‘A Study’ during this period are: RA 1884 (217, the address mistakenly being given as ‘Aberdeen Place’); Royal Society of British Artists (RBA) 1884 (58, £8.8s); RBA winter 1884–5 (245, £10.10s); and RBA winter 1887–8 (368, £21). The general similarity of this picture to the pastel ‘The Pink Shawl’ in the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield (also known as ‘The Convalescent’), which is signed and dated 1887, suggests the last possibility. Besides the stylistic similarity both works seem to show the same winged arm-chair. This painting also belonged to Sickert; he gave it to Florence Pash and she to Rex Nan Kivell (letter of 16 April 1974).

The painting's provenance is confused. Brandon Thomas is given as lender of the work to the London Impressionists exhibition in 1889 but apparently, according to Mrs Marchant, this was only because he took the picture into the Goupil Gallery in the absence of Sickert in the South of France. Both the 1952 Birmingham catalogue and the records of Roland, Browse and Delbanco (now Browse and Darby) state that John Russell owned the painting but this is denied by John Russell in a letter of 10 August 1982, although he did own two other works by Starr. Lillian Browse, in a letter of 19 December 1978, suggests that John Russell had bought the picture from Rex Nan Kivell and states that Roland, Browse and Delbanco purchased it from John Russell in May 1954 and sold it to H.E. Bates in August 1954. However, H.E. Bates had another picture called ‘Le Repos’, the same title as that under which T 03643 was known at the time, and the sales may be confused; this smaller work, in oil on panel, 10 × 6 in, was also lent to the Plaisirs de L'Epoque exhibition of 1954–5 (127), for which, incidentally, H.E. Bates wrote the foreword. (The provenance given here is based on the research of the donor, in itself based on letters from H.E. Bates of 25 April 1978 (and also from his son), Rex Nan Kivell of 16 April 1974, and Lillian Browse of 19 December 1978.)

The donor suspects that the sitter may have been the person who was the cause of Starr's departure for the United States in 1892. A letter from the artist Whistler to his brother William of 14 April 1892 (in the Library, University of Glasgow), repeating information apparently given him by Sickert, states that Starr ran off with the wife of a patron who had given him both a commission and a studio. The lady's relatives stopped them and Whistler says that the lady turned out to be mad. (Letter from Margaret MacDonald of 24 October 1973, now at the Tate Gallery.)

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

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