I have very few pictures that I instinctively tracked down as soon as I
saw them in order to see if I could buy them, and this is one of them.
There are elements that I like. I like the Nicholson glints on the china
and the lustre wear, though it is not Nicholson. I like the Vuillard colour
range, though it is not in the style of Vuillard. It is a little too controlled
for that. The detail and the sense of pattern is slightly na√Øve. I like that
too. It is assured. The subject herself is assured, too, isn’t she? It has nice
tone. It is actually an example of a style of painting that I love: coming
out of a Slade School training with skill and competence, embracing
certain freedoms and modern’ qualities of subject matter which are
then addressed with that hard-won skill. It’s not Modernist. It’s not
very daring. It doesn’t embrace any European Post-Impressionist thrust.
In a very English way, it doesn’t even seem to know of their existence.
There are no isms’ at work here. And no critic is going to get terribly
excited, because it doesn’t kick art history down the road at all. But it is
completely of its period. It tells you about the taste of the sitter ‚Äì in the
rug, the china, the paintings on the wall, and more than anything the
dress. This is the interior and a person before the First World War. And it
is feminist. We do not feel that she has been painted because she is pretty.
Though she is. She has been painted because she is a person. In that way,
it is brilliantly ordinary’. With echoes of Ginner and Whistler. The white
print is the only odd bit. The perspective seems wrong. And I wonder
if it was entirely finished. Anyway, as a little slice of English history and
period it is satisfying. And the dress is just great. You know, I think she
made it herself and that is the point of the picture.
Commentary by Griff Rhys Jones, actor, writer and presenter who has worked largely in television and the West
End over the last forty years. He is currently touring his stand-up show Where was I?’ in Australia
and New Zealand.