Ambrose McEvoy (1877-1927)
In this recently re-discovered work, painted in c.1920 when McEvoy was at the height of his artistic powers, we see why the artist could lay claim to being one of the most adventurous British artists of the early twentieth century.
Ambrose McEvoy was 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’...
In this recently re-discovered work, painted in c.1920 when McEvoy was at the height of his artistic powers, we see why the artist could lay claim to being one of the most adventurous British artists of the early twentieth century. Painted with bravura brushwork and a keen sense of the play of light and shade, it shows the power that could be achieved when McEvoy brought his startlingly modern technique to bear upon any painterly medium.
Ambrose McEvoy showed artistic talent from a young age. He was encouraged by his father, Captain Charles Ambrose McEvoy, and his father’s friend James Abbott McNeill Whistler to pursue art and he enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art at the age of sixteen, studying under Frederick Brown. McEvoy made close friends at the Slade including 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.
McEvoy’s style of painting became looser and less controlled following his visit to Dieppe with Walter Sickert in 1909. His career, like so many artists, was interrupted by the First World War and in 1916 he was attached to the Royal Naval division and spent three months on the front line producing portraits of naval officers, many of which are now in the collection of the Imperial War Museum. At the height of McEvoy’s career, he was painting twenty-five oil paintings a year, including sitters such as the Duchess of Marlborough, Claude Johnson chairman of Rolls Royce, and the actress Lillah McCarthy. In 1924 McEvoy became an associate of the Royal Academy and also a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. Overwork took its toll and he died three years later in 1927.
 Captain McEvoy became friendly with Whistler as he fought alongside one of Whistler’s brothers in the Confederate army during the American Civil War.