Literature: Llewellyn, Sacha, and Paul Liss. Portrait of an Artist. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p.256.
It is always a great pleasure to see a new’ work by my grandmother,
especially a self-portrait. Edie’, as she was known, died five years before
I was born, but as I grew up she was always a very real presence in my
life, in that the walls of the family home in Barnes were covered in
her pictures and those by her sister-in-law, and frequent model, Olive
Deakes. It was Edie’s self-portraits in particular that held my attention:
we had a large pastel, c. 1920, and a smaller oil from 1908 ‚Äì the latter I
am blessed to have inherited. Her look in the former is aloof, distant ‚Äì
in the latter haunting, haunted. Now, decades later, she emerges in this
different portrayal, that is softer, less guarded. The slightly raised brow
and the ghost of a smile give a lighter aspect, and a new facet to the
cumulative image I have of her.
In this ‚Äì at first glance ‚Äì relatively academic self-portrait study, the
emphasis is on light and dark: the soft rendering of the hair, blending
with the dark background, throws our attention onto the illuminated
portion of the face, which is also framed by the black hairband and black
bow. Alongside these traditional pictorial devices we notice an element
of more contemporary abstraction: a fluid, gestural line which marks off
the forms into flat shapes, such as the sharp-edged shadow cast on the
neck. Meanwhile, in her oil studies of this period, Edie was beginning to
emphasise an aspect of colour and shape ‚Äì of pattern ‚Äì that would come
to define her later, more modern’ and often near-abstract style.
Commentary by Nicolas Granger-Taylor. Nicolas is a painter primarily of portraits, nudes and still lives and an art tutor. He graduated from the Royal Academy Schools in 1990 and is the grandson of Edith Granger-Taylor.