Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Girl with a Parrot, c.1925 

Dod Procter RA (1890-1972)

Girl with a Parrot, c.1925, Dod Procter RA
Oil on canvas
20th Century
52¾ x 34¼ in (134 x 87 cm)
W.S. Stimmel, Pittsburgh; University Club of Pittsburgh, until 2004; Private collection, USA
Exhibition catalogue: The Centennial Exposition: Catalogue of the Exhibition of Paintings, Sculptures and Graphic Art (Dallas, 1936), pp. 40-41 & 44
Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1925, no.135; Texas Centennial Exhibition, Dallas Museum of Fine Art, 1936
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It was during the 1920s that Procter established herself as one of the leading portrait painters of her generation. Young women were her forte and this major subject painting, which was ex-ecuted in her house in Newlyn, Cornwall, depicts a young lady cautiously opening a cage to feed a green parrot, a subtle allusion to imminent loss of innocence and sexual self-awareness.

The model is identifiable as Lilian Gilbert (later Brood), a Newlyn resident also painted by Procter’s contemporary Harold Harvey (1874-1941), who sat to Procter a number of times throughout the 1920s.(1) The bright orange cloth and exotic bird depicted in this work are refer-ences to Procter’s experiences travelling abroad in South East Asia, and the bird, which was simply described as a ‘parrot’ when exhibited at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in 1925, is in fact a rose-ringed parakeet native to central Burma, where Dod and Ernest Procter (1886-1935) spent a year from Christmas Eve 1919.

A number of social and cultural shifts had occurred in the years following the First World War and by the early-to-mid 1920s, when this work was painted, over eight million women had at-tained the right to vote. Although the prejudices of the age no doubt frustrated Procter, this did not stop her from becoming a formidably successful painter and by the late 1920s, when her celebrated work Morning was presented to the Tate after being voted ‘Picture of the Year’ at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1927, Procter had become a household name.

Dod Procter was born Doris Shaw in 1890 to Frederick Charles Shaw and Eunice Mary Rich-ards, an artist who had studied at the Slade School of Fine Art. Following the death of her hus-band,

Eunice Mary, her daughter and son moved to Newlyn in Cornwall, a fishing town that had been attracting artists since 1877 when the Great Western Railway was extended to Cornwall. It was there that Doris enrolled in the Stanhope Forbes School of Painting, where she met Ernest Procter, a fellow student, whom she later married in 1912.

After a brief period spent in Burma, Doris and Ernest returned to Newlyn where Doris was quickly recognised for her striking portraits of local fishermen’s daughters and models sent from London by her life-long friend Laura Knight. It was at this time that she also began exhibiting under the name Dod. By 1923 the Procters had moved into a fisherman’s cottage, North Corner in Newlyn, and the following year Dod began regularly exhibiting in America, at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, where many of her portraits, including this one exhibited in 1925, were bought by American private collectors. Dod Procter was made an associate of the Royal Academy in 1934, only the third woman to be elected in the Academy’s history, and she became a Royal Academician in 1942. Dod Procter died at North Corner in Newlyn on 31 July 1972 and was buried next to her husband, who had died in 1935.

(1) Lilian by Dod Procter is part of the Jerwood Collection, Hastings. K. McConkey, H.C. Harvey, P. Risdon and P. Sheppard, Harold Harvey: Painter of Cornwall (Bristol, 2001), p.156
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