L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, June 6, 2021

The best rather than the rest - selected paintings by Sir Oswald Birley

The Green Masque, a portrait of the artist's wife, 1922.
Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Charles Donaldson Hudson, 1929.
Polly, Lady Grimthorpe, 1925.
The Nurse, a portrait of Margaret Elizabeth Barrett, 1921.
India, 1927.
Portrait of a Young Man, circa 1920s. Attributed to Birley, the painting was cut down from a larger composition, the artist's signature lost in the process. 
Dancer in costume for the ballet Le Coq d'Or, 1938.
David George Brownlow Cecil, Lord Burghley, later 6th Marquess of Exeter, 1926.
Armine Dew, 1923.
Olive Pike, née Snell, 1922.
Major General Warren Hastings Anderson, 1918.
 Michael Herbert Rudolf Knatchbull-Hugessen, later 5th Baron Brabourne, 1918.
 Lady Doreen Geraldine Knatchbull, née Browne, later Baroness Brabourne, 1927. (Wife of the above.)
 Kyra Nijinska in costume for the Cochran review Streamline,1935
Self-portrait, 1920.

Frankly, I find a lot of Sir Oswald's portraits fairly pedestrian and really rather dull. But, thankfully, they weren't consistently so, and I think the paintings here are really quite good.


Sir Oswald Hornby Joseph Birley (31 March 1880 – 6 May 1952), English portrait painter and royal portraitist; he portrayed each of the monarchs and their consorts from George V to the present Queen. He was born in New Zealand while his parents were on a world tour. He was from an old Lancashire family, the great-grandson of Hugh Hornby Birley, who led the troops at the Peterloo massacre. Upon his family's return to England, he was educated at Harrow and then Trinity College, Cambridge. He served in France during World War I, rising to the rank of captain and being awarded the Military Cross in 1919. In 1921, at the age of forty-one, he married the twenty-one year old Rhoda Lecky Pike. They would have two children, Maxime and Mark, both of whom would go on to have high-society, high-profile and scandalous private lives. Many of his descendants and extended family have been prominent in society and the arts; his granddaughter, the daughter of Maxime, was Loulou de la Falaise, the muse of Yves Saint Laurent. He painted several portraits of his friend Winston Churchill, to whom he also gave lessons. A large number of his commissions were portraits of military, political, and business leaders, from Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery to Andrew Mellon. During World War II he served with the rank of major in the Home Guard. He was knighted in 1949 and died three years later at his home in London at the age of seventy-two.

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