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 nĂ©e 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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