Acquisition of Iris Barry Seated, 1921 by Wyndham Lewis

Wyndham Lewis Watercolour

This is one of several drawings by the artist relating to Praxitella, a painting which is among the masterpieces of the Leeds twentieth century collection. It is the second such drawing to be acquired for the Museums and Galleries; the first, known as Lady Reading having been
bought for the collection in 2015 with the help of an LAF grant.

Wyndham Lewis Watercolour

The sitter, Iris Barry was Lewis’s lover at the time. She had two children by him but their relationship was troubled and two years later, in 1923, it came to an end. Here she wears the same dress as in the painting, one which Lewis had bought for her. The face is eyeless, yet still palpably staring, inadvertently revealing the artist’s anxieties about the role of women in the world after the First World War.

Stylistically, the drawing marks a return to Classicism and figuration in Lewis’s work after the end of his early Vorticist phase when the movement had ceased to offer him the prospect of a dynamic new language for art. Praxitella was shown at the Leicester Galleries in the year of the drawing. Lewis was later to claim that it had cost him ‘the strength of seventeen water buffaloes’ to create.

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