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Sir Osbert Sitwell

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir Osbert Sitwell

by Frank Owen Dobson
plaster cast of head, 1922
12 3/4 in. (324 mm) high
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, 1995
Primary Collection
NPG 6320

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Frank Owen Dobson (1886-1963), Sculptor. Artist of 8 portraits, Sitter in 18 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This fine, thoughtful and slightly cubist bust of Sir Osbert Sitwell was the result of a commission from the sitter to Frank Dobson in 1921. Dobson was widely regarded as an extremely promising sculptor, working in a modern idiom under the influence of Brancusi and Gaudier-Brzeska. Sitwell went for sittings in the artist's house in Manresa Road, Chelsea, almost every day for a period of three months in late 1921 and early 1922, just at the time when he, his sister Edith and their lodger William Walton were planning the musical entertainment Facade. In fact, Dobson subsequently provided the backcloth for Facade. This plaster head, rescued from Dobson's studio after the Blitz, is the original from which the better known polished brass version (Tate) was cast. T.E. Lawrence regarded the brass head as a brilliant work; 'the finest portrait bust of modern times...appropriate, authentic and magnificent in my eyes, I think it's his finest piece of portraiture and in addition it's as loud as the massed band of the Guards.' Acquired with help from the National Art Collections Fund, 1995.

Related worksback to top

  • NPG 6321: Sir Osbert Sitwell (metal cast)

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery: An Illustrated Guide, 2000, p. 186
  • Saumarez Smith, Charles, The National Portrait Gallery, 1997, p. 187 Read entry

    This fine, thoughtful and slightly cubist bust of Sir Osbert Sitwell was the result of a commission from the sitter to Frank Dobson in 1921. Dobson was widely regarded as an extremely promising sculptor, working in a modern idiom under the influence of Brancusi and Gaudier-Brezska. Sitwell went for sittings in the artist's house in Manresa Road, Chelsea, almost every day for a period of three months in late 1921 and early 1922, just at the time when he, his sister Edith and their lodger William Walton were planning the musical entertainment Façade. In fact, Dobson subsequently provided the backcloth for Façade. T.E. Lawrence regarded the bronze version of the bust as a brilliant work, 'the finest portrait bust of modern times .... Appropriate, authentic and magnificent in my eyes, I think it's his finest piece of portraiture and in addition it's as loud as the massed band of the Guards.'

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 567

Placesback to top

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Subjects & Themesback to top

Events of 1922back to top

Current affairs

The British Broadcasting Company (later British Broadcasting Corporation) is established to experiment with radio broadcasting. It is the largest broadcasting corporation in the world, providing radio, television and Internet services to the public in Britain and across the world.

Art and science

1922 is a key year for modernist literature with the publication of James Joyce's novel, Ulysses and T.S. Eliot's poem, The Waste Land. Both broke new ground with Ulysses (loosely based on Homer's Odyssey) introducing the 'stream of consciousness' narrative technique, and The Waste Land experimenting with multiple voices and a patchwork of literary, historic, mythological and personal allusions.

International

The Soviet Union is formed under Joseph Stalin who takes power after Lenin suffers a debilitating stroke.
In an attempt to avoid civil war, King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy invites Benito Mussolini to form a new government following the Fascist Party's March on Rome.

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