1923-35 by Wyndham Lewis
Wyndham Lewis Portraits, National Portrait Gallery; Tate Collection
Lewis’s style in this painting is so absolutely executed the effect becomes almost surreal – from the lady herself, to the floating, looming bookcase in the background. There is an odd sense of perspective with the doorway and walls behind which, together with the background colours, gives this portrait a sense of foreboding. It was one of my favourite Lewis portraits in the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition, for, against this dark background, Sitwell positively glows out from the centre of the painting. Her clothes are painted in deep, yet bright, resonating colours; the jacket a luminous turquoise and her skirt mustard yellow, her arms cascading from her sleeves in the coloured shapes of imagination. Together with her illuminated and expressively downcast face, this apt elaboration of Sitwell allows the portrait its ultimate purpose: to truly portray the sitter through the artist’s original and coaxing style.