Philip Wilson Steer -- English Artist
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Oil on canvas
214.0 x 153.7 cm
May Grainger Bequest Fund in 1955
From: National Gallery of Australia
Violet Hammersley’s brother-in-law, Hugh Hammersley, was a wealthy banker whose home was The Grove, Hampstead. Steer often visited The Grove for Sunday afternoon teas held by Mrs. Hugh Hammersley. Sargent had portrayed Mrs. Hugh Hammersley in 1892.
Steer’s portrait of Mrs. Violet Hammersley
is one which can truly be described as being in “the grand manner,” evocative
in particular of the works of Gainsborough. In Gainsboough’s works, “the
figure is often seen against a backdrop of feathery foliage, which opens
up to reveal a distant landscape. Efforts were made to achieve the right
effect in the picture and Mrs. Hammersley borrowed an unfashionable oyster-coloured
satin dress, designed by Worth, in which to pose. This must have provided
the closest approximation to Boucher’s Mme. de Pompadour (1758, Victoria
and Albert Museum, London) upon which the pose was probably based. Mrs.
Hammersley recalled that, displeased with the dress’s blue satin bows,
Steer ‘replaced them with white’: I sat to him all through the winter and
spring and into the summer of 1907, and we had near a hundred sittings.
These took place at 109 Cheyne Walk, and I sat on a sofa at the end of
his charming drawing room … The sitting lasted about three hours and I
do not remember ever being bored for a moment. (quoted in MacColl, 1945)”
By: Natasha Wallace
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