(Amherst, Nova Scotia 1882 - London 1957)
Portrait of Sacheverell Sitwell
Signed, titled, dated and inscribed Wyndham Lewis 1922. (VENICE). / (Drawing of SACHEVERILL [sic] SITWELL). at the left centre.
392 x 282 mm. (15 3/8 x 11 1/8 in.)
The present sheet was drawn when Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell were in Venice in the late autumn of 1922. Lewis, who earlier in the year had been a guest of the Sitwells at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire, was also in Venice, with his sometime lover Nancy Cunard. As Lewis later recalled, ‘Osbert and Sacheverell were both there…Sacheverell with the look of sedate alarm which at that period was characteristic of him.’ While in Venice Lewis also produced an unfinished drawing of the Sitwell brothers, now in a private collection, which may have been a compositional study for a planned - though never executed - double portrait. The present sheet may, in fact, have been a secondary study for the head of Sacheverell in the double portrait, in which it is left unresolved; certainly, the angle of the sitter’s head in both this drawing and the portrait drawing of the two brothers is nearly identical.
Lewis drew at least one other, earlier portrait of Sacheverell Sitwell, which was exhibited in London in April 1921.
Around a thousand drawings and a hundred paintings by Lewis are known. Immensely gifted as both artist and writer, for most of his career he worked as both concurrently, although by the early 1920s it was his writing that began to take up much of his creative energy. As he recalled in later years, ‘From 1924 onwards writing became so much of a major interest that that I have tended to work at my painting or drawing in prolonged bursts, rather than fit them into the intervals of the planning or writing of books. Writing and picture-making are not activities, I have found, which mix very well, unless one becomes the servant of the other as was the case with Blake, or with Rossetti.’ Nevertheless, he produced a significant group of paintings and drawings throughout the 1930s, much of which was shown in one-man exhibitions at various galleries in London. Lewis spent the years of the Second World War in America and Canada, but within a few years of his return to London in 1945 had begun to lose his sight and largely stopped painting, becoming completely blind by 1951.
Wyndham Lewis’s output as a draughtsman was of considerable importance in his oeuvre. Apart from publishing three separate portfolios of his drawings - in 1913, 1919 and 1932 - Lewis frequently used his drawings to illustrate the numerous books, pamphlets and articles he produced. He included significant numbers of drawings in his gallery exhibitions, and in his submissions to such group shows as Roger Fry’s Second Post-Impressionist exhibition of 1912 and the first Vorticist group exhibition in 1915. Furthermore, as one recent scholar has noted, at times ‘drawing functioned, in a sense, as painting for Lewis...The drawings stand as substitutes for paintings when means, materials or the creative will was not there, or at times when Lewis was so taken up with his written work, as in much of the 1920s and ‘30s, that more significant production would have been unfeasible.’
His son, Francis Trajan Sitwell, Weston Hall, Northamptonshire
Thence by descent in the Sitwell family at Weston Hall, Northamptonshire, until 2021.