Historical Portraits Picture Archive

The Hon. Lois Sturt (later Viscountess Tredegar) (1900-37), 1920 

Ambrose McEvoy (1878-1927)

The Hon. Lois Sturt (later Viscountess Tredegar) (1900-37), 1920, Ambrose McEvoy
Watercolour on paper
20th Century
22 x 14 ¾ in (55.9 x 37.5 cm)
The Don Steyn Collection; Private collection, UK
W. Cross, Lois Sturt, Wild Child, A Glance at Hon. Lois Ina Sturt, Viscountess Tredegar (Newport, 2015), p.47
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Ambrose McEvoy’s impatient lines, liquid watercolour and heavy, black brushstrokes successfully capture the dynamism of Lois Sturt, the ‘brightest of the bright young things’. Described as the most beautiful brunette in England, Lois was perilously wild for the period, turning up to fashionable West End establishments without a hat, smoking cigarettes and showing off her ‘red and blue scars from being savagely bitten on the neck whilst making love’.

Lois Sturt was born in 1900 to Lady Feodorowna Yorke, an Edwardian beauty known as Feo, daughter of ‘Champagne’ Charlie, 5th Earl of Hardwicke, and Humphrey Napier Sturt, 2nd Lord Alington (although Feo had so many love affairs that Lois’s paternity was always questioned). Lois was born into one of the wealthiest families in Britain, owning property across the East End of London and the Crichel estate in Dorset. She was a keen artist, actress and dancer, educated at the Slade School of Fine Art and she had her own studio in Chelsea next to her good friend Augustus John (1878-1961).

For several years of her life Lois Sturt had affairs with older married men, including Reggie Herbert, 15th Earl of Pembroke, who was romantically involved with Lois for four years. In 1928 Lois entered an arranged marriage with the Hon. Evan Frederic Morgan, heir to Viscount Tredegar, a known homosexual; they had a tempestuous marriage, often arguing over which of their male lovers should stay the night.

Lois went on to become a successful racehorse owner, then very unusual for a woman, and received her pilot’s licence in 1928. Her life continued at an unsustainable pace, with excessive parties and alcohol abuse, as well as fad diets. Whilst holidaying with Madame Louis Cartier, Countess Almasy, wife of the jeweller, in Budapest in September 1937, Lois Sturt unexpectedly suffered a heart attack and was found dead in her room.

Ambrose McEvoy, one of the most successful British portraitists of the early twentieth century, began his career at the Slade, having been encouraged by, among others, James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903). His artistic friends included Augustus John, with whom he briefly shared a house, and in 1898 he became romantically involved with his sister Gwen (1876-1939). McEvoy first focused on genre painting but after exhibiting a portrait of his wife Mary at the National Portrait Society in 1915, increasingly concentrated on portraiture.

Lois Sturt was painted by several fashionable artists of the era, including William Rothenstein (1872-1945) and Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), but no one captured her exuberance and restlessness quite like Ambrose McEvoy, who painted her on several occasions. As with many of McEvoy’s portraits, this study is dramatically modern, enlivening an otherwise static composition with a dramatic, swift turn of the head.
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