Exhibited: 50/50; Fifty British Women Artists 1900 ‚Äì 1950, Worshipful Company of Mercers (3rd December 2018 – 23rd March, 2019); The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds (9th April, 2019 – 27th July, 2019).’For Real: British Realists from the 20s and 30s’, Museum MORE, Gorssel (September 15th, 2019 ‚Äì January 5th, 2020).
Much in this painting is recognisable as Mary Adshead’s work: the careful
craftsmanship of the paint, the French inflexion in the simplified shapes
of trees and leaves, the hint of Neo-Victorianism in the setting and the
flatness typical of a decorative’ painter who specialised in murals. Other
things are different: it is a portrait of a known individual, a friend who
lived locally in Hampstead, and the mood is as sombre as the colours.
We know about Marjorie Hodgkinson chiefly for her part in the
life of her husband, the painter Mark Gertler (1891‚Äì1939), and as the
mother of his son, Luke Gertler. Their friendship and marriage were
not, like Gertler’s largely frustrated affair with his fellow student Dora
Carrington, a storm at sea but more a slowly advancing tide when, in
1929, Marjorie accompanied Mark to a sanatorium in Norfolk where
he went to stave off a relapse into TB. They were married secretly by
the British Consul on a trip to Paris in 1930, to avoid Gertler’s family
making objections to him marrying a gentile, and moved into a flat in
Kemplay Road, Hampstead. For a while, life was good to them, and
Luke was born in 1932, but Mark’s picture sales went flat and Marjorie’s
When Mary Adshead painted the winter portrait, none of the later
crises ‚Äì culminating in Mark’s suicide ‚Äì could be foreseen. It is one of
her most eloquent works, an exercise in controlled colour, with a figure
elegantly but rather precariously poised in the act of turning towards us
with a face that carries foreboding.
Commentary by Alan Powers, writer, curator and teacher specialising in mid-twentieth-century British art,
architecture and design. His book Bauhaus Goes West: Modern Art and Design in Britain and America will
be published in 2019.