Study for ‘The Kerry Flute Player’, 1934
Framed (ref: 524)
Signed, inscribed with title and dated on recto; inscribed on verso: ‘Drawings and studies for The Defeat of the Danes by Colin Gill. Now Open Admission Free’
Pen and ink over pencil, on verso, pencil with crayon highlights, 23 1/4 x 16 3/4 in. (59 x 42.5 cm.)
Provenance: Sue Murray (née Lethbridge)
The Kerry Flute Player was exhibited in the 1934 Pittsburgh International, and thereafter acquired for the Carnegie Institute Permanent Collection (subsequently de-accessioned in 1979). According to the Carnegie Magazine, January 1935, the painting enjoyed ‘the unique distinction of being praised unanimously by the critics and admired enthusiastically by the public’ (vol. 8, no. 8, p. 247). The article continues:‘The picture was painted by the artist on a trip to the west of Ireland last summer. The model who posed for the flute player is an itinerant musician … his eyes closed as if in ecstasy at the sound of his own music while the girl, with eyes wide open, is completely absorbed in the magic notes of the flute. Both are indifferent to the approaching storm and the buffeting wind … There is a classic simplicity and grace in the long lines of the girl’s dress, shawl, folded hands, and slender feet.’
The model for this drawing was Sue Lethbridge, daughter of Mabel Lethbridge, a First World War heroine, whose portrait Gill had been commissioned to paint for the Imperial War Museum. Mabel Lethbridge and Gill became lovers for a time, Gill occupying the first floor of a magnificent studio in Tite Street, whilst Mabel, Sue and their butler occupied the ground floor. Gill became Sue’s guardian. This drawing was acquired directly from Sue Murray (née Lethbridge), who was eleven years old when she posed for The Kerry Flute Player.
The drawing was made on the reverse of an original poster design by Gill advertising an exhibition of his studies for The Defeat of the Danes, the mural that Gill had completed for St Stephen’s Hall, Palace of Westminster, in 1927.
We are grateful to Sue Murray for assistance.