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Helen Lessore RA, Portrait of Miss Edna Brook

Portrait of Miss Edna Brook, ca.1987

Helen Lessore RA (1907 - 1994)

RA Collection: Art

This is an intimate portrait by the artist Helen Lessore RA. Beyond the title, nothing is known of the sitter or of the relationship between artist and model. However, given the close cropping and informal loose brushwork, it is likely that the sitter was well-known to Lessore. The title of the work – Portrait of Miss Edna Brook – suggests she may be a friend or family member of Lessore, who was born Helen Brook. This glimpse of Brook in profile, caught in thought, appears as an offhand and quickly-captured moment in a friendship.

As well as a painter, Lessore was an influential proponent of the mid-20th century version of British realism that came to be known as the ‘Kitchen Sink School’ of painting. After completing her studies at the Slade School of Art in 1928, she became the secretary to the sculptor and gallery owner Frederick Lessore, owner of Beaux Arts Gallery in London, whom she married in 1934. Through her work with the Gallery, she became acquainted with many leading artists including Walter Sickert, Frederick’s brother-in-law. As Lessore’s role within the Gallery increased throughout the 1930s and 1940s, she had less time for painting. On the death of her husband in 1951, Lessore became director of the Beaux Arts Gallery and invested her energy in encouraging emerging artists, namely those who became known as the ‘Kitchen Sink School’, due to the realism of their domestic subject matter. After the Gallery closed in 1965, Lessore returned to painting full-time and established herself as a successful portraitist.

Lessore established strong relationships with the artists she represented; her most famous painting The Symposium (1974-7, now in the Tate Collection) is a group portrait of several artists associated with the Gallery including Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and Leon Kossoff. This painting of Edna Brook, made in the later stages of the artist’s career, reflects Lessore’s inclination to make portraits of friends and family as well as commissions for clients.

Object details

Portrait of Miss Edna Brook
Helen Lessore RA (1907 - 1994)
Object type
Copyright owner
Oil on canvas

317 mm x 260 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Diploma Work given by Helen Lessore RA accepted 1987
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