This head and shoulders portrait of Donald Rolph, aged 17, was used by Tuke as a study for the head of the seated figure on the left, in his major Royal Academy painting Lovers of the Sun, exhibited in 1923. Tuke makes a specific reference in his registers that Rolph was the model for the head.
Tuke met Rolph through his friend Arthur Stanley Towsey (1888–1927), who was a teacher at St. Paul’s School, Hammersmith, where Rolph was a pupil. Rolph was an orphan and although he had a guardian, Towesy often took him with others on holidays to Devon and Cornwall. He came with Towsey to Falmouth, Cornwall to visit Tuke in the summer of 1922 and posed as a model for several of Tuke’s paintings.
Donald Rolph went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge. By this time Lovers of the Sun was being exhibited at the British Empire exhibition at Wembley in 1924, which resulted in Rolph being teased by his fellow undergraduates for appearing in a nude painting. In his memoirs of 1981, Rolph wrote of his time at Falmouth, and meeting Tuke 60 years earlier. Recalling the artist painting a "head and shoulders" of him at Stanley Towesey’s House in 1921, he remembered that “it was completed in about two days. We talked while he painted. I do not think he made use of a photograph.”
Although the present lot is dated 1922, Tuke often dated works when they were exhibited, which was usually the year after he painted them. If this is the portrait that Rolph is referring to, then it was executed at Parkgate House, Petersham in Surrey, the home of Stanley Towesy, his mother and sister. Rolph went on to become a Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded an MBE.
We are grateful to Catherine Wallace for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.