Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor
Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor
by Olive Edis
platinum print on photographer's card mount, 1920
7 7/8 in. x 4 1/2 in. (201 mm x 114 mm)
Given by (Mary) Olive Edis (Mrs Galsworthy), 1948
Sitterback to top
- Nancy Witcher Astor (née Langhorne), Viscountess Astor (1879-1964), Conservative politician; MP for Plymouth Sutton; former wife of R.G. Shaw, and later wife of 2nd Viscount Astor; daughter of Chiswell Dabney Langhorne. Sitter in 39 portraits.
Artistback to top
- (Mary) Olive Edis (Mrs Galsworthy) (1876-1955), Photographer. Artist associated with 425 portraits, Sitter in 17 portraits.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 187 Read entry
A beautiful and impetuous divorcee from Virginia, Nancy Langhorne came to London in 1904 and, rejecting several other suitors, married the immensely rich Waldorf (later 2nd Viscount) Astor. By nature religious, she was converted to Christian Science in 1914, which ever after she preached with missionary zeal. In 1919 her husband, on inheriting the peerage, was forced to vacate his seat in Parliament. She won the ensuing by-election, and was the first woman to take a seat in the Commons. She showed little reverence for proceedings there, and was a frequent interrupter; so much so that on one occasion, when she claimed to have been listening for hours before making her interjection, a member exclaimed: 'Yes, we heard you listening!'. This photograph was taken at the Astors' London home, 4 St James's Square, and shows Lady Astor in uncharacteristically reflective mood.
Olive Edis, one of the daughters of the architect Sir Robert Edis, took up photography in 1900, and set up her studio at Sheringham in Norfolk. She later had studios in Farnham, Surrey, and Ladbroke Grove, London, and was particularly interested in portraiture, photographing many of the leading figures of her day. In 1919 she toured the battlefields of France and Flanders to record the work of the British Women's Services for the Imperial War Museum. In 1948 she presented some 250 of her photographs - richly-toned platinum prints and autochromes - to the Gallery.
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1920back to top
Current affairsThe Government of Ireland Act (Fourth Home Rule Bill) partitions Ireland into the Irish Free State with a devolved parliament in Dublin and Northern Ireland with a devolved parliament in Belfast.
The Communist Party of Great Britain is founded in London, uniting a number of independent socialist and Marxist parties into a single, united party.
Art and scienceQueen Alexandra unveils a monument to Edith Cavell in St Martin's Place opposite the National Portrait Gallery. The English nurse was executed in Germany for helping hundreds of allied soldiers to cross the border from occupied Belgium to the neutral Netherlands.
George V officially opens the Imperial War Museum at the Crystal Palace.
InternationalThe Kapp Putsch threatens the newly formed Weimar Republic. In defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, the leaders of the Marinebrigade Ehrhardt refused to disband and marched on Berlin, occupying it on the 13th March. With the general army refusing to defend the city, the government fled to Stuttgart. The rebellion, however, failed after the workers joined a general strike, disabling their plans.
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