… two portraits of an affair …
Diana Low, a student painter, was heavily influenced by William Nicholson. They had a short affair as recalled later by her brother in law.
Her parents “were great friends with Sir William Nicholson, really great friends, to the extent that their young and very pretty daughter was told nothing was better for her than to go and have lessons in painting from William … who was an extremely sexy man … immediately fell in love with Di, and when she was seventeen, maybe he was sixty-four … bewitched Di and they started an affair… The parents never knew, and went on loving William Nicholson and loving their daughter.”
During their affair they painted each other. William’s arresting portrait of Diana shines. It is an immensely attractive painting of a strong minded young artist. Tirzah Garwood recalls, “she was very attractive in a feline sort of way. … She was full of energy and dived beautifully.”
Diana’s portrait of William is an affectionate tease, showing him asleep on a shabby white sofa.
Both quotations are from the new biography, Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship by Andy Friend, which was published last April by Thames & Hudson.
The two portraits can be seen side by side in Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship. English Artist Designers 1922-1942 at Compton Verney which runs until 10 June 2018 (Tue – Sun 11am – 5pm). Plan at least 2 hours to look around and then have some cake. This is the final leg of the exhibition’s tour and was originally staged at Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne, May –September 2017 and then at the Millennium Galleries, Sheffield, October 2017 – January 2018.
Portrait of Diana Low, 1933, (©Desmond Banks) by William Nicholson (1872–1949)
Portrait of William Nicholson, 1932, (Wolverhampton Arts and Museum) by Diana Low (1911-1975)