Gladys Dorothy Davison (1849 - 1922):
The Window, circa 1910
Framed (ref: 9890)
Oil on canvas
11 ½ x 9 in. (29.2 x 22.8 cm)
Provenance: Private Collection
The Window by Gladys Davison is more complex than its simple title suggests. Though most representational paintings are compositionally contained, here the glazing bars continue beyond the edge of the canvas, allowing Davison’s depiction to break free of the picture plane and to evoke a world beyond. It’s a device that raises immediate questions: what is the rest of this room like? Is it cosy or austere? A garret studio or a smart family home? Does Davison always work here, high above the chimneys overlooking south west London?
Davison herself remains somewhat enigmatic, too. Google tells she was a portrait painter who showed with the NEAC and at the RA. So unlike many talented women artists, Davison was actually able to follow her calling. That makes her rather rare and begs another question: why is she now so little known? What can be said with certainty is that she was a pupil of Sickert and the picture’s subject and tone – a bird’s-eye view over tall town houses in sludgy colours – is very much to his taste. The use of impasto is characteristic too, though in Davison’s assured hands it is light rather than laboured, the sky alive with clouds lit from behind and the houses touched with pink and blue, and brickwork made up of flecks of ochre.
I’ve yet to make the pilgrimage to 48 Lupus Street, where an old label on the back of the picture records it was made. Now it’s moved further north of the Thames and hangs in the top room of our nineteenthcentury house next to an almost identical real window that overlooks rooftops and trees. And here at least there’s no conundrum: I just like the two together. The real and the virtual, side by side.
Commentary by Rupert Thomas, Editor of The World of Interiors.