Although known primarily as a painter of rural life, George Clausen produced portraits throughout his career. One such, that of Hannah Roberts, later Lady Clwyd, (National Museums on Merseyside, Liverpool) was highly praised at the Royal Academy in 1895 and he must, at that time, have been tempted to replace his Essex labourers with the comfort and security of paid portrait commissions. Clausen nevertheless found the genre problematic, and his portraits were never superficial affairs. They were often bound with ties of family or friendship. On at least one occasion, much to his client's chagrin, he refused to show a portrait because he was not satisfied with it (McConkey, Sir George Clausen , 2012, pp.114-7).
There was also a fineline between head studies of models and commissioned works. In this sense, Clausen was not a professional portraitist and although he made no distinction in terms of handling, we should assume that those works declared 'portraits' represent known individuals. In only one instance, in 1903, a Portrait of a Lady was shown at the Academy without declaring the identity of its sitter. She was 'Miss Leon', probably the grown-up daughter of Arthur Lewis Leon, a London County Council alderman and his wife whose portrait was also painted (Guildhall Art Gallery, London).
In the present case, the figure has not been identified and further research is required to determine if this is indeed the lost Academy picture of Miss Leon. The sitter's pink dress, in a style more common in the 1830s than at the turn of the twentieth century, is most unusual and to compound the uniqueness of the work, she holds two pink roses - a common device in 'society' portraiture. All other references to genre of Sargent, Shannon and Lavery are studiously avoided.
A fine pencil study related to the present work was sold in 2012. Another compositional study showing a figure in a similar dress is contained in the Holbourne Museum, Bath, while Plymouth Art Gallery contains a drawing of what may be the same woman in full face.