Dod Procter (1890-1972)
This striking portrait was painted in Jamaica in early 1956 and depicts a young girl named Pearl, who sometimes modelled for Procter. Procter travelled to Jamaica several times throughout the 1950s and early 1960s during the winter months...
Dod Procter was one of the most celebrated British artists of the 20th century and is best known for her sympathetic studies of the human figure...
This striking portrait was painted in Jamaica in early 1956 and depicts a young girl named Pearl, who sometimes modelled for Procter. Procter travelled to Jamaica several times throughout the 1950s and early 1960s during the winter months and would make the 20-day trip on the boats operated by the banana importers Elders & Fyffes. Procter would sometimes travel alone, but on other occasions was joined by close friend and fellow artist Alethea Garstin (1894-1978). When travelling alone she would write extensive letters to Garstin, often describing her delight at painting Jamaican subjects and the challenges she faced when trying to translate the subtleties of their skin tones onto canvas. Procter felt that other artists such as Augustus John (1878-1961) ‘…didn’t see the blue and the purple, the colour of grapes…’ and would paint their subject’s skin in all the same colour. This bold interpretation of flesh tones can be observed clearly in this work, and on closer inspection one can see hues of blue and dark green. Procter’s genuine concern to depict black subjects in such a considered way was quite unique within the sphere of British art at this date, and these remarkable works by Procter sold for high prices when exhibited.
Until recently, the original title and exhibition history of this work was lost. Recent conservation, however, revealed the title ‘Girl in a Shawl’ written in the artist’s hand on the reverse of the canvas stretcher, thus identifying it as the lost painting of that name exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1956. Affixed to the reverse is also a label for James Bourlet & Sons who we know managed the transportation of Procter’s work to and from the Royal Academy each year from her studio in Cornwall. Procter’s ledgers, now in the Tate Archive, confirm this work was then exhibited at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol in 1957, where the price was listed as 150 gns.
Doris Shaw (later known as ‘Dod’) moved to Newlyn in Cornwall with her mother when young and after showing an interest in the arts enrolled at Stanhope Forbe’s School of Painting. Newlyn had been attracting artists since the late 19th century it remained a permanent base for Dod throughout her life. In 1907 Dod met Ernest Procter (1885-1935) and in 1912, after a brief period spent studying together at the Atelier Colarossi in Paris, they were married.
Following the First World War, the Procters were commissioned by a Chinese merchant, Lim Ching Tsong (1867-1923), who was residing at a Newlyn hotel, to paint a series of murals for his palace in Rangoon, Burma. Accepting the offer, the couple travelled to Burma on Christmas Eve 1919 and although their client became difficult, they had the opportunity to spend a year in the country and explore the Irrawaddy River by boat. This year abroad significantly influenced Doris’ work, she became more confident in her style, the Burmese culture provided endless visual stimuli and she worked almost exclusively on portraiture.
On their return, Dod and Ernest moved back to Newlyn where Dod was quickly recognised for her striking female portraits of local fishermen’s daughters and models sent from London by her life-long friend Laura Knight (1877-1970). In 1924 Dod began regularly exhibiting in America at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh where many of her portraits were bought by American private collectors.
In 1927 Dod became nationally famous for her portrait Morning which was exhibited and awarded ‘Picture of the Year’ at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1927. Morning was bought ‘for the nation’ by the Daily Mail and underwent a two year tour of Britain following its purchase; it now hangs in the Tate gallery, London and is one of their most popular works.
In response to her remarkable achievements as an artist, Dod was made an associate of the Royal Academy in 1934, only the third woman to be elected in the history of the institute, and she became a Royal Academician in 1942.
The sudden death of Ernest in 1935 encouraged Dod to travel more. The following year shevisited America and Canada, and in the 1950s she travelled further afield to the Canary Islands, Tenerife and Jamaica.
After a long an illustrious career as an artist, on 31 July 1972 Dod Procter died at her home in Newlyn and was buried next to her husband.
 In 1953, 1956, 1958 and 1961
 James, A,. 2007. A Singular Vision: Dod Procter 1880-1982, Bristol: Sansom & Company Ltd, p.117
 Welch, N. 1972. A Memoir of Dod Procter. Cornish Review. Quoted in James, A,. 2007. A Singular Vision: Dod Procter 1880-1982, Bristol: Sansom & Company Ltd, p.118
 Procter, D. Ledger used by Dod Procter [Manuscript], TGA 7920/5/2. London: Tate Archives.
 The Graphic, The National Weekly, London, 7th May, 1927, p. 1