We use cookies to improve your experience online. By using our website, you agree to the use of cookies as described in our cookies policy.

As restrictions ease, the number of visitors to the RA is increasing. Find out what plans are in place to make your visit safe and comfortable.

Dame Ethel Walker ARA, Portrait of a Woman with a Yellow Scarf

Portrait of a Woman with a Yellow Scarf, ca. 1930s ?

Dame Ethel Walker ARA (1861 - 1951)

RA Collection: Art

A prolific portraitist, Ethel Walker preferred painting female subjects to male. Among her sitters were Vanessa Bell, Orovida Pissarro, Barbara Hepworth, Nicholette Devas and Nancy Astor.

As well as painting named sitters Walker often painted models and friends, giving these works suggestive titles such as 'The Jade Necklace'. There is a label on this picture which identifies the sitter as Gwen, a neighbour, but Walker preferred to give the painting a more generalised title. The painting remained in Walker's studio until her death and was most likely painted for her own interest rather than a commissioned work.

The sitter of this portrait has not been identified. As the painting remained in Walker's studio until her death it was most likely painted for her own interest rather than a commissioned work.

As is typical of Walker's works this portrait is Impressionistic in style and appears to have been painted quickly. In her unpublished notes on Walker's life and work, Grace English noted:

'In her portraits Ethel Walker sought to express a spiritual quality of the subject rather than an external likeness, & they in no way conformed to Academy standards. They were conceived in terms of paint. I never remember her doing a black and white portrait drawing in chalk or pencil'. (Tate Archive, 716.81.576)

Walker's was vocal in her disapproval of women wearing make-up and nail varnish and expected her models to remove all traces of colour before they entered her studio. One friend recollected:

‘She executed commissions when she liked the look of the would-be sitters but before painting her women she would say “Take that filthy stuff off your lips” for, always faithful to the motif, she could not tolerate the sudden assault of red upon an eye so sensitive to tone.’ (L.B.Introduction to Distinguished British paintings 1875-1950: an accent on Ethel Walker, London: Roland, Browse, and Delbanco, 1974)

Object details

Portrait of a Woman with a Yellow Scarf
Dame Ethel Walker ARA (1861 - 1951)
ca. 1930s ?
Object type
Copyright owner
Oil on canvas

508 mm x 405 mm x 19 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Bequeathed by Carel Weight RA 1999

Associated works of art

1 results

return to start

Start exploring the RA Collection

read more
  • Explore art works, paint-smeared palettes, scribbled letters and more...
  • Artists and architects have run the RA for 250 years.
    Our Collection is a record of them.
Start exploring