Property from the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust
MARIE-LOUISE VON MOTESICZKY (AUSTRIAN 1906-1996)
Portrait of Suzanne van Thijn
oil, charcoal and pastel on canvas
73.5 x 50.8 cm (28 7/8 x 20 in)
I. Schlenker, Marie-Louise von Motesiczky 1906-1996, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, New York, 2009, pp. 396-397, no. 233, illustrated p. 397
Painted in the 1960s, Suzanne van Thijn (1904-c.1983) was a Dutch journalist and librarian of Jewish origin who fled Amsterdam in 1940. She spent the war years first in Oxford and then in London. Marie-Louise and Suzanne shared a number of friends, among them neighbours Nell and Arthur Clegg and the journalist, art critic and editor Henri Wiessing (1878-1961), who was van Thijn's lover for many years. Wiessing and van Thijn remained in close touch with Marie-Louise after returning to the Netherlands when the War was over.
The idea of doing a portrait of Suzanne was conceived in the early 1950s. In 1952 Wiessing wrote to Marie-Louise: 'The thought that you want to paint Suzanne has thrilled me.' On a visit from Wiessing and Suzanne to London in 1953, Marie Louise wrote of the striking impression Suzanne made on her: 'there they stood... Suzanne with her crown of hair à la Empress Elisabeth and the suit close fitting at the waist' (Schlenker p. 396). But the artist didn't in fact pursue the idea until a further visit by Suzanne to London in the 1960s, possibly shortly after Wiessing's death. At the time Marie-Louise captured Suzanne's cultured elegance in several photographs (fig. 1), almost certainly to act as an aide-mémoire for the present painting. Suzanne's distinctive hairstyle clearly continued to fascinate Marie-Louise. Schlenker notes that in the subsequent painting: 'the artist concentrated on the sitter's extraordinary hairstyle, long plaits of hair wound round her head several times, creating the impression of a crown.' (Schlenker p. 396).
See introduction to lot 328.
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