Marie-Louise von Motesiczky

Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, by Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, 1959 - NPG 7023 - © Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust, 2018

© Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust, 2018

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Marie-Louise von Motesiczky

by Marie-Louise von Motesiczky
oil on canvas, 1959
41 5/8 in. x 23 1/4 in. (1056 mm x 590 mm) overall
Given by the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust, 2016
Primary Collection
NPG 7023

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

This portraitback to top

The painting is a self-portrait showing the artist in an interior, standing in front of a golden background, probably a door. She is wearing a black cocktail dress with golden dots, an amber-coloured necklace echoing the colour of her hair, and a white shawl draped across her shoulders. As if ready for an outing, Motesiczky waits for things to happen with a mixture of sadness and anticipation. This discrepancy between the artist’s festive clothes and desolate expression gives the painting a tangible tension. It is likely that Motesiczky worked on the self-portrait for several years since it is probably the one that Elias Canetti referred to in a letter to the artist dated 6 July 1957. At that point, the painting was not yet finished, and, considering it to be undoubtedly her best self-portrait, he urged her to complete it for him. It took her two years to do so and the completed painting was first exhibited at the celebrated Goethe Institute exhibition in 1985.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1959back to top

Current affairs

Harold Macmillan wins the general election with an increased majority, returning to office as Conservative prime minister. The victory was the result of perceived economic improvement under the Conservative government, and his (misquoted) boast: 'you've never had it so good.' During his premiership he earned the nickname 'Supermac', coined by cartoonist, Victor 'Vicky' Weisz.

Art and science

Claudia Jones organises the first West Indian-style carnival in the country, starting the tradition of the annual Notting Hill carnival. The event was a response to the race riots of 1958, and an attempt to celebrate West Indian culture and help overcome racial prejudice by giving the whole community the opportunity to join in the event.


Fidel Castro becomes leader of Cuba. After defeating the American-backed Batista government, Castro's revolutionary army arrived in Havana on 8th January where Castro proclaimed himself Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Within a month, Prime Minister José Miró Cardona had resigned, and Castro took over.
In Tibet, an uprising against Chinese rule is brutally crushed, and the Dalai Lama flees to India, beginning his long exile.

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