by Anthony Devas
oil on canvas, 1944
20 in. x 16 1/8 in. (508 mm x 410 mm)
On display in Room 31 at the National Portrait Gallery
Sitterback to top
- Laurence Edward Alan ('Laurie') Lee (1914-1997), Poet and prose writer. Sitter in 15 portraits.
This portraitback to top
According to Anthony Devas's son, Prosper (Lee's godson) the portrait was painted in 1944, 'during the last war when Laurie Lee was a lodger in my parents' house in Markham Square, Chelsea.' At this time Lee's circle of literary friends included Stephen Spender, Cyril Connolly, Cecil Day-Lewis, and John and Rosamond Lehmann.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 373
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 218 Read entry
Laurie Lee’s literary reputation was secured by his acclaimed memoir of childhood, Cider with Rosie (1959). This portrait was painted while the poet, novelist and screenwriter was lodging with the painter Anthony Devas (1911–58) in Markham Square, Chelsea. Devas’s wife Nicolette recalled that Lee’s face was ‘like water … never the same, mastered by the weather with a change of colour and texture; glass smooth, ripples, dead sulky. His weather was his moods.’ At this time, Lee’s literary circle included Cecil Day-Lewis, Cyril Connolly and Stephen Spender. His affair with Lorna Wishart, wife of the publisher Ernest Wishart, had just ended with the start of her new relationship with the painter Lucian Freud, which brought Lee to the edge of a breakdown. Shortly afterwards, his first book of poetry, The Sun My Monument (1944), was published and Lee noted in his diary, ‘I am a bit depressed about my book – it seems so slight. At the party [held by the writer Rosamond Lehmann] people were picking it up and putting it down as if it were a month old Evening Standard.’ In addition to a radio play, The Voyage of Magellan (1948), Lee wrote journalism and followed Cider with Rosie with As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (1969) and A Moment of War (1991).
Placesback to top
- Place made: United Kingdom: England, London (artist's home, Markham Square, Chelsea, London)