Modern Brit Portrait Dorothy Chamberlain Hermione Hammond


Artist: Hermione Hammond (1910-2005)
Title: Portrait of a Lady, possibly Dorothy Chamberlain
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Date: c1939

This bust length portrait depicts a young woman in profile, standing in front of a book shelf. Though her identity is unknown, she bears more than a passing resemblance to Dorothy Chamberlain (1911-1994), daughter of Neville Chamberlain and the best friend of the artist. Hammond would visit her at chequers frequently in 1939, during the months leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War.

Though unsigned the painting was bought with a small cache of Hammond’s work which surfaced in Somerset. All were painted on the same type of fine linen canvas, with many being laid on Masonite panel at a later date.

Hermione Hammond (1910-2005) was born in Hexham, Northumberland. Her mother was a professional artist, whilst her father, a naval captain, was invalided in 1936, after suffering a stroke in an accident at a munitions factory.

Her artistic education began at the Chelsea Polytechnic, coming into contact with a young Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore. From here she won a scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools, where under the influence of Walter Russel and Tom Monnington, she showed an early interest in mural decoration and etching, a craft she learnt from night classes at the Royal College of Art.

After her studies, she seems to have enjoyed some success as a professional artist, satisfying various ecclesiastical commissions. In 1937 she won a competition to decorate the ceiling of the new Senate House and a scholarship to study in Rome in the following year. Absorbing what she could from the cultural life of Italy, she returned to Britain as the prospect of war looked likely.

She was a close friend of Dorothy Chamberlain, the daughter of the then Prime Minister, whom she visited at Chequers frequently in the pivotal months leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War. She recalled Neville Chamberlain saying during a walk in the grounds that he was “very worried, Hitler is a very dangerous man” and was also at 10 Downing Street in September 1939, when he declared that Britain was at war with Germany.

Though she resumed her professional career in 1949, she is best known for her paintings of the London blitz. The contents of her studio were dispersed through Sotheby’s in 2006.

Size (Canvas): 40 x 32 x 2.5cm
Size (Frame): 29 x 21cm