Portrait of a Lady in a Landscape

Derwent Lees, Artist

This is one of the paintings in our collection. It was made in United Kingdom in 1910-1914.
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Object Detail

About the Work
The work was gifted to the Sarjeant Gallery in 1964 by a Mrs P. Riddiford of Surrey, England in 1964. As with many items in the Collection that have been gifted we don’t know why the donor chose to gift this painting to a Gallery on the other side of the world and this in itself makes the intrigue of this work all the better for me. On the back of the work is a dealer gallery label from a ‘J. Leger and Sons, 13 Old Bond Street, London W1. Est 1892’ and written in pencil ‘Riddiford Ken 6527’. The details of the work are “Portrait of a Lady in Landscape, Derwent Lees”. The work was included in an exhibition at that gallery in September 1944, titled ‘Old and Modern Masters’. I’d love to know what made Ken purchase such a ‘modern’ work and what was his relationship to the donor? Did Mrs P.Riddiford love or loath the work and what made her send it to a Gallery in New Zealand? Or, given she was from Surrey which is where Lees died in 1931, did she know the artist? Further detailed research into this work’s provenance may well reveal more about the Riddiford’s but for me their story is as intriguing as the work.
The life of the artist is itself an interesting story. Derwent Lees was born in Clarence, Tasmania to English parents and at an early age had a riding accident in which he suffered a head injury and lost a foot, after which he wore a wooden prosthetic. He was educated at Melbourne University as well as in Paris and in 1905 relocated to London where he studied at the Slade School of Art and he also taught drawing between 1908-1918. Lees travelled extensively through Europe and had close associations with the well-known painters Augustus John and J.D. Innes with whom he spent much time painting. It was through Augustus John that Lees met his wife Edith Harriet Price, who was a popular artist model in London at the time. She went by the name of Lyndra and was the subject of many of Lees’ paintings. It is more than likely that she is indeed our ‘Lady in Landscape’. The work is undated although, in researching the artist and with so many collections now online it’s possible to date the work to somewhere between 1910 – 1914. Given this timeframe it’s also interesting to note that the subject’s dress would have been very modern with its unstructured tailoring and bold colours. The model appears to be holding something in her hand and there is a corresponding shadow on the skirt, this could be an orange, camouflaged or given the pencil lines around the edge of her hand it could be an unfinished section of the painting, we could imagine that she’s about to launch a shot-put or cricket ball into the landscape.
Although Lees’s works are held in many notable gallery collections in the United Kingdom and Australia, he had a rather sad and troubled life, suffering from an incurable mental disease for which he was institutionalised from 1919 and where he remained until his death on 24 March, 1931 in West Park Hospital, Surrey, England.
- Greg Donson, 14 December 2013, article for the Wanganui Chronicle
Image 507 x 298 mm
Frame 710 x 505 x 75 mm
oil on board
Portrait of a woman with a long orange skirt and a hat standing with, one hand on her hip, in a rocky hill landscape with a cloudy sky behind.
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Gift of Mrs P Riddiford, U.K., 1964.
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date
07 Apr 1964



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