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During the mid-1920s when this work was painted, Dod Procter was one of the most famous artists in Britain. She was lauded for her unparalleled ability to depict the female form in a sensitive, sympathetic manner devoid of the voyeuristic overtones which permeated the work of some of her male peers.

Dod (or ‘Doris’ as she was previously known) spent much of her life in Newlyn, Cornwall, having initially trained at the Stanhope Forbes School of Painting. In 1907 she met Ernest Procter (1885-1935) and in 1912, after a brief period spent studying together at the Académie Colarossi in Paris, they married. In 1920 Dod and Ernest travelled to Rangoon in Burma where they were commissioned to paint a series of murals for a wealthy Chinese merchant who they met in Newlyn. The trip had a transformative effect on Dod’s work and the exoticism she experienced whilst travelling around the surrounding areas was often referenced in her paintings thereafter....

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During the mid-1920s when this work was painted, Dod Procter was one of the most famous artists in Britain. She was lauded for her unparalleled ability to depict the female form in a sensitive, sympathetic manner devoid of the voyeuristic overtones which permeated the work of some of her male peers.

Dod (or ‘Doris’ as she was previously known) spent much of her life in Newlyn, Cornwall, having initially trained at the Stanhope Forbes School of Painting. In 1907 she met Ernest Procter (1885-1935) and in 1912, after a brief period spent studying together at the Académie Colarossi in Paris, they married. In 1920 Dod and Ernest travelled to Rangoon in Burma where they were commissioned to paint a series of murals for a wealthy Chinese merchant who they met in Newlyn. The trip had a transformative effect on Dod’s work and the exoticism she experienced whilst travelling around the surrounding areas was often referenced in her paintings thereafter. The trip to Burma also allowed Dod to spend time studying the human form in greater detail and laid the foundations for her unique style of portraiture which later gained her considerable recognition.

By the time the present work was painted in 1926, Dod’s star was in the ascent. She began exhibiting still-life works at the Royal Academy much earlier in 1913, but on her return from Burma she pursued her art with greater vigour and her ‘new style’ was beginning to attract the attention of the critics. Her big moment came in 1927 - the year after Lydia was painted - when she exhibited Morning at the Royal Academy. It was awarded the highly prestigious ‘Picture of the Year’ and was eventually bought for the nation by the Daily Mail who toured it around Briton over a two-year period.[1] It now hangs in the Tate gallery and is one of their most popular works.

In 1926 Good Housekeeping ran a story on Dod and her remarkable ascent to public acclaim. It praised her ‘…strong, vigorous, direct expression’ and her deft ability to paint her subject as if they were sculpted in stone with round, softened features.[2] Lydia was one of the paintings chosen by Dod to illustrate the article and to reinforce the point that her interests lay in the literal depiction of her subjects as living, human forms, relishing, in the case of Lydia, her model’s ‘high, bold brow and round turnip-like head.’[3] Intimate and sincere, Lydia can be considered one of Dod’s most striking female studio portraits from the mid-1920s and is a fine example of British realist painting from the interwar period.

Lydia was either gifted to or acquired by the artist Joan Manning Sanders (1913-2002), a child prodigy from Cornwall who began exhibiting her work at the Royal Academy aged just sixteen. Sanders was a friend and follower of Dod and owned several works by her including Still-life of Flowers (Philip Mould & Co.) Both works were sold by her descendants in 2020.

[1] The Graphic, The National Weekly, London, 7th May, 1927, p. 1

[2] Fraser, M. 1926. Dod Procter and Her Work, Good Housekeeping. pp.30-31.

[3] Fraser, M. 1926. Dod Procter and Her Work, Good Housekeeping. pp.30-31.

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500 Years of British Art