by Anthony Devas
oil on canvas, 1944
20 in. x 16 1/8 in. (508 mm x 410 mm)
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)
Events of 1944back to top
Current affairsLondon is hit by the V1 Flying Bomb. This weapon, developed by the German Luftwaffe and colloquially known as the 'Buzz Bomb', or 'Doodlebug', was the first guided missile and was used for attacks on targets in England and Belgium.
Art and scienceLaurence Olivier's epic film version of Henry V is released. Olivier directed and starred in the film, which was partly funded by the British government in recognition of its morale-boosting patriotic appeal. The cast included service men as Henry's army.
InternationalFrance is liberated from German-occupation following the Battle for Normandy. Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of occupied-France led by Field Marshall Montgomery, was the largest seaborne invasion in history, involving almost three million soldiers crossing the channel from England to France. Troops landed on the 6th June (D-Day), and Paris was liberated in late August.
Become a Member
Enjoy access to special events, discounts on the Gallery online shop, supporters’ updates and much more
Bringing people together by sharing the portraits and stories of the men and women who have shaped our nation.
Sign up to recieve information on exhibitions, collections and activities of the National Portrait Gallery, including special offers, shop products, and exclusive competitions.
Tell us more
Framed & unframed prints