Orphan of the month


Portrait of a Young Woman, 1928

This portrait by William Roberts (1895-1980) has hung in the York Art Gallery since 1982. A lot is known about it, but not the name of the sitter other than she is thought to be farmer’s daughter called Elsie, who helped look after the young Deirdre Knewstub at Pett Level. It was the Sussex home of John Knewstub, founder of the Chenil Galleries in Chelsea, where in 1923 Roberts had had his first one-man show. However the YAG caption says the sitter was a farmer’s daughter that he met on holiday in Pembrokeshire.

Roberts was born on 5 June 1895 in London and studied at St Martin’s School of Art and at the Slade from 1910-13. He travelled in France and Italy, and was influenced by Picasso. Joined the Vorticist Group in 1914 and the London Group in 1915. He was a First World War artist. He became an ARA 1958 and is also represented in the Tate, the IWM and the National Gallery of Canada. He also published polemical pamphlets. He taught from 1925-60, apart from the war years, at Central School of Arts and Crafts, and during World War II at Oxford Technical School.

Oil on canvas: 51 x 40.5 cm


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bringing together ‘orphan’ portraits and
Orphan of the Month