This intimate drawing of Cedric Morris was executed by his life-long partner, Arthur Lett-Haines. Casually posed with a pipe poised between his lips, Lett-Haines captures his partner’s characteristically relaxed demeanour.

Morris and Lett-Haines first met in 1918, at a party hosted by Lett-Haines and his wife Aimée at 2 Carlyle Square, Chelsea. The evening attracted artists, writers, dancers and creatives in abundance. One such artist was the young, and at that time somewhat coy, Cedric Morris. The two almost immediately fell in love, despite Lett-Haines's marriage to Aimée. According to curator and writer Hugh St. Clair, Morris was ‘immediately taken with Lett’s acerbic wit’ later confessing to Lett-Haines that, before meeting him he had been asleep and now he had ‘sprung to life’.[1]

This sketch was likely drawn during the 1920s, possibly when the young couple were living in Paris. Lett-Haines and Cedric Morris took the Parisian art scene by storm, moving to the French capital in 1920. They rented...

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This intimate drawing of Cedric Morris was executed by his life-long partner, Arthur Lett-Haines. Casually posed with a pipe poised between his lips, Lett-Haines captures his partner’s characteristically relaxed demeanour.

Morris and Lett-Haines first met in 1918, at a party hosted by Lett-Haines and his wife Aimée at 2 Carlyle Square, Chelsea. The evening attracted artists, writers, dancers and creatives in abundance. One such artist was the young, and at that time somewhat coy, Cedric Morris. The two almost immediately fell in love, despite Lett-Haines's marriage to Aimée. According to curator and writer Hugh St. Clair, Morris was ‘immediately taken with Lett’s acerbic wit’ later confessing to Lett-Haines that, before meeting him he had been asleep and now he had ‘sprung to life’.[1]

This sketch was likely drawn during the 1920s, possibly when the young couple were living in Paris. Lett-Haines and Cedric Morris took the Parisian art scene by storm, moving to the French capital in 1920. They rented a flat in Montmartre on Rue Lepic, situated near the scandalous Chez Ma Cousine behind the Moulin Rouge, before moving to a first-floor apartment overlooking the courtyard on Rue Liancourt in Montparnasse. During this time, Paris was a centre of artistic expression and social freedom, particularly in comparison with England where homosexuality was illegal. Here, Morris and Lett-Haines were free to immerse themselves in metropolitan life in the intimate company of vibrant, like-minded individuals. In Paris, whilst Morris became increasingly influenced by the cubists, Lett-Haines explored the art of the Surrealists. Both artists, however, embraced the ephemeral nature of line drawing and the present free-flowing study is an indication of the influence of modernist artists in Paris, particularly the simplified sketches of Henri Matisse.

In the heart of Montparnasse, Lett-Haines and Morris mingled with artists and collectors such as Fernand Leger, Marcel Duchamp, Gertrude Stein and Peggy Guggenheim. The two quickly established themselves as the English gentlemen of the Parisian art scene and were adored by many for their English eccentricities.

Increasingly throughout their time in Paris, Lett-Haines began to focus less on his own work, and more on Morris’ practise. Lett-Haines became the driving force behind Morris’s success as an artist, and his determination to place Morris at the forefront of the international art scene during the 1920s cut short his own career as a painter. The couple later left Paris for the English countryside, and Lett took charge of the house-hold. When Lett-Haines and Morris established the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in 1936, it was Lett-Haines who managed the business and took care of the students.

Although their relationship was tumultuous at times, the present work is a revealing reminder of their intimate and life-long bond.

[1] Morris, C. Tate Gallery Archive 83171/4/27. Quoted in St. Clair, H. (2019) A Lesson in Art & Life: The Colourful World of Cedric Morris & Arthur Lett-Haines. London: Pimpernel Press LTD, p. 24.

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