Dame Henrietta Octavia Weston Barnett

Dame Henrietta Octavia Weston Barnett, by Ivan Opffer, 1933 -NPG 5437 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Dame Henrietta Octavia Weston Barnett

by Ivan Opffer
Sanguine on paper, 1933
15 3/8 in. x 12 1/2 in. (390 mm x 318 mm) overall
NPG 5437

Inscriptionback to top

Signed and dated lower right: ‘Ivan Opffer / 33’.
On reverse inscr. top right (obscured by backing sheet): ‘Dame Henrietta Barnett’.

This portraitback to top

At the time this portrait was made the sitter was over 80 years of age. The drawing appears to have been done from life, presumably in her home at 1 South Square, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, where she was cared for by her long-term assistant Marion Paterson. By this date she was more or less housebound, her health and spirits failing. The swiftly executed sketch, drawn with Opffer’s characteristic loose but sparing line, acknowledges the effects of age, but also conveys Dame Henrietta’s keen gaze and inquiring expression. It is one of a series of similarly sized portrait drawings of British public figures done in sanguine or black crayon during the 1930s by Opffer, 21 of which are in the National Portrait Gallery Collection (see NPG 5436–5454). The reasons for the artist’s choice of sitter are unknown, but during the 1930s he worked as a freelance illustrator in London (chiefly for the Daily Telegraph) and it is possible this influenced his choices.

Ivan Opffer was a Danish artist who was raised and studied in New York and after war service completed his studies in Paris before marrying Betty Chumley, cousin to Australian painter Arthur Boyd. Around 1930 they settled in Britain, where he drew portraits of Augustus John, G.B. Shaw and W.B. Yeats (NPG 3965); he then worked for a newspaper in Copenhagen until the Second World War, when he returned to New York, before finally retiring to Denmark.

The present work is among those purchased from Opffer’s widow.

Dr Jan Marsh

Physical descriptionback to top

Head-and-shoulders slightly to left, eyes towards viewer.

Provenanceback to top

The artist; his widow Betty Opffer, from whom purchased 1981.

View all known portraits for Dame Henrietta Octavia Weston Barnett