Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Speed Diana

Harold Speed "Lady Diana Bridgeman" date unknown
Leamington Spa Gallery and Museum, U.K.

The sitter is (Helen) Diana Bridgeman (1907-1967.) She projects an easy assurance at the easel and in one newspaper clipping from 1930 announcing her marriage to "art authority" Robert Abdy, we read " The bride, the last of Princess Mary's bridesmaids to be married, is also an artist of some ability." However, I can find no examples of any work done by her. She is the subject of no less than five portraits owned by the National Portrait Gallery in London, and their short bio of her omits any mention of artistic aspirations and merely describes her as, "Fashion leader; wife of Sir Robert Henry Abdy and daughter of 5th Earl of Bradford. Sitter in 5 portraits."

Harold Speed (1872-1957) was an English artist of great reputation, even renowned. He studied at the Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy Schools, and the same year he graduated (after winning numerous awards) he was elected as a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. As well as a successful career in portraiture, Speed left his mark indelibly on multiple generations of art students with his wonderfully clear and intelligently written manuals on drawing and painting. His most famous book The Practice and Science of Drawing was written in 1913 and is still in print (and available as an e-book) today. My own copy (inherited from my father) sits out where I can refer to it as necessary (i.e. frequently!)

Many thanks to artist John Philip Hagen for sending me this piece, which I had never seen before!

6 comments:

Marianne said...

I think Harold Speed must have been a little in love with her.

Nancy Bea Miller said...

You may be right!

Anonymous said...

I believe that portrait you show is of Lady Diana Abdy, but there were two Lady Abdys, both married to Sir Robert Abdy. Diana Abdy was his second wife and a painter. His first wife was Lady Lya Abdy, and she is the one who was a "fashion leader," associated with Coco Chanel, and a favorite subject of painters and photographers. Many of the portraits online are labeled simple Lady Abdy, which causes confusion. Most of them seem to be of Lady Lya.

Nancy Bea Miller said...

Wow, very interesting information! Thank you so much! Yes, i don't believe Lady Abdy 1 is differentiated from Lady Abdy 2 in the portraits I saw on the NPG website, or else i just didn't catch it. Many thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

And thanks to you for putting up this portrait of Lady Diana Abdy. I had searched for paintings by her a while ago, with no luck, and when I looked again was pleased to see this portrait and to have an idea of what she looked like. I have been gathering biographical information on the Irish writer George Moore, who, it seems, knew both Ladies Abdy. But I am especially interested in Lady Diana because she apparently visited him regularly during his last couple of years, when he was nearing eighty and she was in her early twenties. It is said that he enjoyed her visits a good deal, and judging by her portrait, I can see why, for he always enjoyed the company of beautiful women. It is also said that she would bring her paintings to show him, and that she gave him one that he particularly liked. I would like to see any of her paintings, but am very curious about the one she gave him. - Michael Cunningham

mick swanston said...

i have letters written by lady diane abdy to my mother on newton ferrers notepaper,