HENRY LAMB, R.A. (1883-1960)
HENRY LAMB, R.A. (1883-1960)
HENRY LAMB, R.A. (1883-1960)
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HENRY LAMB, R.A. (1883-1960)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE LONDON COLLECTION
HENRY LAMB, R.A. (1883-1960)

Portrait of Cecil Beaton

HENRY LAMB, R.A. (1883-1960)
Portrait of Cecil Beaton
signed and dated 'Lamb/35' (upper right)
oil on canvas
34 x 27 in. (86.5 x 69 cm.)
Painted in 1935.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 17 November 2004, lot 19.
Private collection, U.S.A.
with Philip Mould & Co., London, where purchased by the present owner in March 2014.
Royal Academy Illustrated, 1953, p. 59, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Henry Lamb, Manchester, City Art Galleries, 1984, p. 9, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Bright Young Things, London, National Portrait Gallery, 2020, p. 136, exhibition not numbered, illustrated.
M. Arditti, 'Gossip abounds', The Spectator, 12 June 2021, p. 37, illustrated.
London, Leicester Galleries, Recent Paintings by Henry Lamb, November 1936, no. 28.
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Sixty-Third Autumn Exhibition, October 1937 - January 1938, catalogue not traced.
London, Royal Academy, 1953, no. 182.
London, Leicester Galleries, Memorial Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Henry Lamb, R.A., December 1961, no. 53.
Salisbury, The Salisbury Museum, Cecil Beaton at Home - Ashcombe and Reddish, May - September 2014, exhibition not numbered.
London, National Portrait Gallery, Bright Young Things, March 2020, exhibition not numbered: this exhibition travelled to Sheffield, Millennium Gallery, May - July 2021.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

Brought to you by

Angus Granlund
Angus Granlund Director, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

‘Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.’ - Cecil Beaton

The present picture is the only portrait of Cecil Beaton painted by Henry Lamb. As with so many things in the lives of those talented youngsters in the 1930s, it came about through Edith Olivier, the author who lived at the Daye House, Wilton and who acted as an amanuensis to the likes of Cecil Beaton, Rex Whistler, Stephen Tennant and A.G. Street, steering their enthusiasms and guiding them towards remarkable careers.

Cecil had taken the lease of Ashcombe House in Wiltshire and moved there in 1930. In those early days, commitments in London often meant that he was only there at weekends, when he filled the house with his talented friends, figures as varied as the actress Ruth Gordon, Lady Ottoline Morrell, the Marchesa Casati along with close friends such as Peter Watson, Oliver Messel and John Sutro. He was delighted to find sympathetic neighbours, Edith Olivier herself with Rex Whistler making the Daye House his second home, David Herbert at Wilton, Stephen Tennant at Wilsford, Lady Juliet Duff at Bulbridge, Augustus John at Fryen Court, and as he recorded:

‘In his quiet studio at Coombe Bissett, Henry Lamb, in touch with everything in the world, was painting his enchanting wife [Lady Pansy Pakenham], children and favourite haunts along the Chalke Valley’ (Cecil Beaton, Ashcombe, London, 1945, p. 49).

On the very day before he found Ashcombe, 5 April 1930, he was staying with Edith and Rex, and they went to visit the Lambs. It was not a wildly successful visit as Edith recorded:

‘Pansy put a stopper on all conversation. Even Rex was driven back on to conventional remarks. At first we sat alone with her and when he came in it became a little better, but we all felt they loathed us. Cecil adored the sensation. Mr Lamb stared at Rex all the time, never taking his eyes off him. We drove back laughing immoderately at having been so unwelcome’ (P. Middleboe (ed.), Edith Olivier from her Journals 1924-48, London, 1989, p. 108).

Evidently Henry Lamb hated people thinking he was readily available to visitors simply because he worked at home.

Matters clearly thawed since on 30 December 1934, on their way to church in the Cathedral, Edith and Mrs Beaton dropped Cecil at Coombe Bissett for his first portrait sitting with Lamb. The work was completed in 1935. By that time Cecil was well established at Ashcombe, though he had just spent an agonised Christmas with his parents staying at Ashcombe, finding his father a man broken by life, often staring blankly into space and his mother somewhat despairing about what life held in store for her. Cecil was doing well financially and had seemingly overcome his infatuation with Peter Watson. His sisters were both married, and his younger brother Reggie had died tragically in a tube station the year before. He was about to enter the world of Christian Bérard and Jean Cocteau, both of whom were to be important influences in his artistic life, and in the Spring of 1935 he was off to the United States again, later enjoying part of the summer at Ashcombe.

After the war, when Cecil moved into Reddish House, he became a friend of the Lambs. Henry Lamb would take his daughter, Felicia, to dinner there and driving home after one such dinner said: ‘Cecil has such wonderful manners.’ Anxious to improve his drawing skills, Cecil was humble enough to ask Henry Lamb for lessons (Mrs Felicia Palmer to HV, 19 August 2021).

We are very grateful to Hugo Vickers, Cecil Beaton’s Literary Executor and author of Cecil Beaton: The Authorised Biography (1985, reprinted 2020) and Malice in Wonderland: My Adventures in the World of Cecil Beaton (2021) for preparing this catalogue entry.

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