His famed depictions of human character and beauty, particularly of women, became sought after and he maintained an illustrious list of clients spread between the United Kingdom and America, where he was represented for a period by the most celebrated international art dealer of the...

Characteristic of McEvoy’s confident approach to the medium of watercolour, bold strokes of bright colour dominate the composition of this crowd scene. The picture has been built up in multiple layers of intersecting brushstrokes, which results in a soft, almost pastel-like quality to the medium. However, there are also areas which McEvoy leaves unpainted, and this absence is just as expressive as the detailed painting. His purposefully ambiguous approach engenders the essence of a crowd, and in doing so demonstrates McEvoy’s refusal to patronise his audience.

In this work, McEvoy’s unparalleled translation of the human psyche into watercolour is exemplified; the bustling movement of a crowd is captures through his distinctively loose brushwork. The cool tones and faceless figures merge into one another, in celebration of the collective human condition.

Biography

Ambrose McEvoy demonstrated his exceptional artistic abilities from a young age. Encouraged by his father, Captain Charles Ambrose McEvoy, and inspired by his father’s great friend, James...

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Characteristic of McEvoy’s confident approach to the medium of watercolour, bold strokes of bright colour dominate the composition of this crowd scene. The picture has been built up in multiple layers of intersecting brushstrokes, which results in a soft, almost pastel-like quality to the medium. However, there are also areas which McEvoy leaves unpainted, and this absence is just as expressive as the detailed painting. His purposefully ambiguous approach engenders the essence of a crowd, and in doing so demonstrates McEvoy’s refusal to patronise his audience.

In this work, McEvoy’s unparalleled translation of the human psyche into watercolour is exemplified; the bustling movement of a crowd is captures through his distinctively loose brushwork. The cool tones and faceless figures merge into one another, in celebration of the collective human condition.

Biography

Ambrose McEvoy demonstrated his exceptional artistic abilities from a young age. Encouraged by his father, Captain Charles Ambrose McEvoy, and inspired by his father’s great friend, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, McEvoy enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art at the age of sixteen.[1] The young McEvoy established himself as a gifted genre painter; he explored rolling landscapes and intimate interior scenes whilst attracting attention from wealthy patrons and collectors, even at this early stage in his career.

During the mid-1910s, McEvoy ventured increasingly towards portraiture and the demand for his portraits rose concurrently. However, as with many artists, his career was interrupted by the First World War and in 1916 he was attached to the Royal Naval division and posted to the Western Front and the North Sea.[2] Following the horrors of this experience, his artistic zeal continued and he painted a series of portraits of naval officers and highly decorated lower-ranked soldiers.[3]

On his return, McEvoy was heralded as one of the most successful English society portrait painters of the early 20th century. His innovative style and florid methods endeared an emerging generation of young, wealthy and liberal-minded patrons. His famed depictions of human character and beauty, particularly of women, became sought after and he maintained an illustrious list of clients spread between the United Kingdom and America, where he was represented for a period by the most celebrated international art dealer of the day, Lord Duveen.[4]

However, this youthful success was to take its toll on McEvoy and he died in 1927, aged forty-nine. Critics writing shortly after his death were in little doubt as to the significance of his work; ‘the most refined aspect of early twentieth century society will live on in his work, and that alone ensures his position in history’.[5]

To this day, he has become famed for his depiction of women. In his obituary in The Times he was praised for his ability to paint female subjects in a manner that was both visually appealing, but also bespoke the profundity of his ‘thoughts about human beauty, particularly feminine beauty’.[6]

[1] E. A. Akers-Douglas, (ed.) L. Hendra, Divine People: The Art & Life of Ambrose McEvoy, (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2019) p.28.

[2] Akers-Douglas, (ed.) Hendra, Divine People, p.24.

[3] For more information on his portraits of officers, see Chapter 7. A Painter of Heroes in Akers-Douglas, (ed.) Hendra, Divine People.

[4] Akers-Douglas, (ed.) Hendra, Divine People, p.176.

[5] “Ambrose McEvoy”, Country Life, vol. 13, issue 1619, 28th January 1928, p. 106.

[6] "Mr. Ambrose McEvoy." The Times (London), 5th January 1927, p. 12.

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500 Years of British Art