Following his earlier Florentine oil and tempera portrait, the early Italians undoubtedly remained the inspiration for Gertler’s beautiful portrait head of Carrington, executed in 1913. In a letter to her the previous July, Gertler had expressed his admiration for the ‘joys’ of the National Gallery, naming Michelangelo, Botticelli and Piero della Francesca; and with her half-veiled lids and carefully modelled lips, Carrington, like The Violinist, particularly recalls the work of the latter, especially perhaps the face of his fresco of the Madonna del Parto in Monterchi. Pencil allowed Gertler a freedom not possible in tempera. Soft shading evokes Carrington’s distinctive bob enclosing her head in a closely-fitting helmet of hair; while a few simple strokes conjure up both her likeness and her vivacious character. Moreover, the study also exudes a sensuality that demonstrates the spell she would cast not only over Gertler but also over so many of his contemporaries. Nevertheless, the study is already less detailed than that of The Violinist, as Gertler also begins to show a simplification of form which demonstrates his move towards the more experimental work in the remainder of the decade.
We are very grateful to Sarah MacDougall for preparing this catalogue entry and also to Luke Gertler for his assistance with researching this work.