Ambrose McEvoy (1878-1927)
Few works of this quality by McEvoy have been on the market in recent years...
This portrait is reminiscent of McEvoy’s ‘Two Ballet Dancers with Dresser’ in the Tate collection, with its looming shadows contrasting delicate, ethereal backstage dancers. McEvoy painted several informal ad vivum sketches of ballet dancers in 1913, several of which were exhibited at the New English Arts Club. The dancer in the present work looks as though she is unaware of the artist’s presence, the work is voyeuristic and evokes the work of Edgar Degas.
Ambrose McEvoy began his career at the Slade, having been encouraged by his father and his father’s friend James Abbott McNeill Whistler. At the Slade he became close friends with Augustus John, with whom he shared a studio for a time, and embarked on a ‘stormy’ affair with his sister, Gwen. In 1900 Gwen John was deeply hurt at McEvoy’s announcement that he was engaged to Mary Augusta Spencer Edwards, a fellow Slade student. Ambrose McEvoy and Mary Spencer Edwards married in 1902 and in 1906 they moved to 107 Grosvenor Road where they would spend the rest of their lives.
Following his visit to Dieppe with Walter Sickert in 1909, McEvoy’s style of painting evolved. The more sombre-coloured interior and narrative scenes that typified his earlier work soon gave way to a more expressive approach, exemplified in the present work painted c.1913. This highly modern style reached its maturity in the 1920s, and some of McEvoys most successful portraits from that date venture beyond the realms of representation and edge daringly closer to abstraction.
Few works of this quality by Mcevoy have been on the market in recent years. A portrait described as an unknown lady, purchased by this gallery, sold at Dreweatt Neate February 2015 (£41,216) and was resold into the London art trade.