David Jagger (1912-1975)
The present work is a finished study for a larger portrait of Vivien commission by her mother Evelyn in 1928 for her London residence Cam House, Campden Hill...
Until recently the subject of this striking work was not known for certain, however, recent research confirms her identity as Vivien St George (1912-1975), daughter of the painter William Orpen (1878-1931) and Evelyn St George (d.1936).
Until recently the identity of the subject of this striking work was unknown, however, recent research confirms her as Vivien St George (1912-1975), daughter of the painter William Orpen (1878-1931) and Evelyn St George (d.1936).
Evelyn was the wife of Orpen’s cousin Howard St George (1857-1937) and he was introduced to her by his mother. In 1908 they began a scandalous love affair and in 1912 Vivien was born. Orpen had a close relationship with his daughter which continued long after the affair ended and his portrait of Vivien, painted in 1918 when she was aged 6, is one his most sensitive child portraits.
The present work is a finished study for a larger portrait of Vivien commission by her mother Evelyn in 1928 for her London residence Cam House, Campden Hill. Vivien is shown as a confident young woman and her bright blue eyes and flaming red hair are projected by the dark green curtain drape she stands before. As is typical of Jagger, the composition also has a cinematic quality – a hint of effortless glamour reminiscent of a Hollywood movie still. It seems likely that Evelyn was introduced to Jagger by Orpen who was a fellow member of the Chelsea Arts Club, and she would also have seen his striking portrayals of female subjects in the Royal Academy exhibitions.
This work was retained by Jagger and he chose to include it in the touring exhibition ‘The Art of the Jagger Family’ which ran between August 1939 and July 1940. Curiously, when it was exhibited it was given the generic title ‘Study of Girl with Red Hair’ and the true identity of the subject has only recently been re-affirmed.
Jagger was born in Yorkshire near Sheffield and his interest in the arts soon emerged. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a lithographer, although leaving a few years later to concentrate on drawing portraits in pastel, as well as moorland scenes. His pastel portraits soon earned him enough money to move to London, and following the sale of his acclaimed work The Bolshevik to Lord Beaverbrook, he was able to establish a studio.
Jagger soon became one of the most highly regarded society portraitists working in London and included amongst his circle an illustrious set of patrons, including Queen Mary and the actress Vivien Leigh. His reclusive nature helped him to avoid the controversy which seemed to linger around other artists of the period, most notably Augustus John (1878-1961), and this discretion won him the favour of the more conservative social elite of the day. His subjects are always treated with great modesty and their simple but stately elegance go hand-in-hand with his suave but controlled brush.