Item #2797 “Miss Virginia Stephen”: Large Charcoal Drawing of Virginia Woolf. VIRGINIA WOOLF, FRANCIS DODD.
“Miss Virginia Stephen”: Large Charcoal Drawing of Virginia Woolf
“Miss Virginia Stephen”: Large Charcoal Drawing of Virginia Woolf
WOOLF, VIRGINIA; DODD, FRANCIS.

“Miss Virginia Stephen”: Large Charcoal Drawing of Virginia Woolf

“The eminent novelist and essayist, the ‘queen of Bloomsbury,’ was still Miss Virginia Stephen when Francis Dodd drew her at the age of twenty-six, four years before her marriage to Leonard Woolf… At this time she was already working on her first novel, The Voyage Out, although it was not to be published until 1915. Dodd shows her long, aquiline face still soft with the bloom of youth, but reserved and remote in its intelligence…” –catalogue entry for the Morgan Library Exhibition of this Dodd drawing

ORIGINAL, HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT DRAWING OF THE YOUNG VIRGINIA STEPHEN BY FRANCIS DODD.

DODD’S WORK FROM HIS 1907-1908 SITTINGS WITH WOOLF ARE THE ONLY EXTANT LIKENESSES OF HER FROM THIS PERIOD. FROM THE BENJAMIN SONNENBERG COLLECTION.

Virginia Woolf famously hated being an artist’s subject. According to her nephew Quentin Bell, “one of the things she most disliked in life was being peered at. A very few friends had been allowed to make pictures; some were made by stealth.” We have, therefore, very few surviving images from artists of Woolf, and Dodd’s work from 1907-1908 are the only extant artist portraits of her in the early years of her work on her first novel The Voyage Out and were the only artist likenesses of Woolf made prior to Duncan Grant’s painting of her of 1911 (now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

At the time of her 1907-1908 sitting with the artist Francis Dodd, Woolf was not yet a famous writer (The Voyage Out would not be published until 1915). In a letter to Violet Dickinson (June 3, 1907) she mentions her first sitting for Dodd, almost with amusement:


”Dodd, a little New English Club artist, half drunk and ecstatic, wishes to paint my portrait, and I am to sit in the afternoons from 2 to 4:30. Alone?”

On 1 October she mentions further Dodd sittings to Dickinson, and later in the month to Vanessa Bell. The sittings extended well into 1908: in March 1908 she writes to Lady Robert Cecil about Dodd, wittily calling him “friend–brother–citizen–Dodd” and on 10 August 1908 she mentions to Vanessa that Dodd was “much pleased with his print of me” but complains that “my lip is probably a chronic blemish; I always forget to anoint it–and how do you account for that, considering my vanity?”

From his sessions with Woolf, Dodd created three known drawings in preparation for a print etching (as mentioned by Woolf in her letter): One of the drawings is in the National Portrait Gallery; another is held privately; the third is this drawing from the Sonnenberg collection and it is by far the most complete and detailed of the drawings. The others are incomplete sketches of just her head; this Dodd drawing is a large, full drawing showing Woolf adorned with a flowing scarf from just above her waist and appears to be a completed work. Of particular note is Dodd’s evocative rendering of Woolf’s eyes – Woolf stares off the side in a wonderful portrayal of pensiveness.

The artist Francis Edgar Dodd (1874-1949) was a successful and highly regarded painter and etcher, active in the New English Art Club, a trustee of the Tate Gallery (1929-35), and a member of the Royal Academy of Arts, from 1935 until his death (by suicide) in 1949. He was introduced to the Stephen family and Clive and Vanessa Bell by the painter Henry Lamb.

Provenance:


–J. S. Maas & Co., Ltd., London, 1965.

–Benjamin Sonnenberg (1901-1978), renown art collector and member of New York’s high society. Sold his sale Sotheby Parke Bernet, 3-5 June 1979, lot 1490 (where it sold for $6500). Illustrated in catalog.

-Private collection, with gift presentation note on frame backing

Exhibited:

–London, Maas Gallery, Pre-Raphaelite to Post-Impressionists, 1965, no. 38. 

–New York, The Pierpont Morgan Library, Artists and Writers: Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Portrait Drawings from the Collection of Benjamin Sonnenberg, May 13 to July 30, 1971, no. 40, p. 37, illustrated in catalogue. 

DODD, Francis. Miss Virginia Stephen. Charcoal on paper. Signed and dated by Dodd in pencil at upper right “Francis Dodd / 1908” and inscribed by Dodd at lower center “Miss V. Stephen”. “Virginia Stephen” also in another hand in pencil at upper left. In beautiful ornate frame, from Mass Gallery/Sonnenberg, now refitted with museum plexiglass. Dimensions: sight = 11.75x 7.5 inches. framed = approx. 15 x 19.5 in. Paper uniformly toned, only evident when drawing removed from frame.

References:

BELL, QUENTIN. Virginia Woolf. Vol 2., p.160.

NICOLSON, NIGEL; TRAUTMANN, JOANNE, ed. Letters of Virginia Woolf, Vol 1., 1888-1912.

Price: $80,000 .

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