Thursday, October 9, 2008

William Clarke Wontner - Honeysuckle

signed and dated l.l.: W. Wontner 1907

oil on canvas
56 ½ by 38 ½ in.

probably Royal Academy, 1907 no. 263, entitled “Portrait of a Lady”.

Wontner, who is more commonly associated with Classical and Oriental beauties, also enjoyed a thriving portrait practice. His commissioned works such as those of Mrs. Duff Assheton-Smith (New Gallery 1900), Elsie Maud Huggins (dated 1900) as well as Colonel John Gordon Wolridge-Gordon and his wife Isabel Wolridge-Gordon (both circa 1911), all showed the model, as here, in contemporary dress. Although it is tempting to suggest that the present portrait was of his wife, Jessie Marguerite née Keene (1871-1950), who sat for a number of the artist’s works, the young lady is clearly younger than the 35-year-old Jessie. The size of the canvas also suggests a commissioned work and given its date can be assumed to be Wontner’s 1907 Royal Academy exhibit. The young lady holds a bunch of honeysuckle, a flower that symbolized friendship, love and devotion.

This painting is to be included in the forthcoming Wontner Catalogue Raisonné, currently being compiled by Alice Munro-Faure, to whom we are grateful for the above entry.

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