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Powis Castle Acquires John Singer Sargent Charcoal Portrait with Help from the Art Fund
John Singer Sargent, Portrait of the Hon. Violet Lane Fox, Baroness Darcy de Knayth, Countess of Powis c.1910-1914.

LONDON.- A unique portrait by celebrated American artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) has been bought by Powis Castle.

Portrait of the Hon. Violet Lane Fox, Baroness Darcy de Knayth, Countess of Powis c.1910-1914, by Sargent was bought with the help of a £25,000 grant from the Art Fund towards a total of £50,000.

The charcoal drawing depicts Countess Violet, the wife of the 4th Earl of Powis, with her hair piled up in the fashionable bouffant style of the time, looking expectantly towards her left. A gauze scarf wrapped around her neck adds style and grandeur to her pose. Violet is drawn as a strong individual and a true Edwardian Aristocrat reflecting her independent and persuasive character.

Portrait of the Hon. Violet Lane Fox, Baroness Darcy de Knayth, Countess of Powis had been part of a private collection until it was bought for public display by National Trust owned Powis Castle.

Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: “With its intricate facial detail and lively characterisation, this striking portrait offers a glimpse into the personality of this significant Powis figure. We’re pleased to have helped National Trust secure it, so that it can be appreciated within the beautiful, historic setting of Powis Castle. We thank all our members for their support in helping us make acquisitions such as this possible.”

Anna Orton, Property Manager from Powis Castle said: “The portrait has been hung in the Lower Tower Bedroom, a room rich in colour and atmosphere, where normally a charcoal drawing would not catch the eye. However, this is not the case with this wonderful work. It immediately commands attention and instills curiosity among those who gaze at it. We are really fortunate to have had the support of the Art Fund to acquire the drawing. We look forward to sharing with our visitors further insight into the character of this remarkable woman and the times in which she lived.”

Now acquired for National Trust’s permanent collections, the portrait hangs in the Lower Tower Bedroom, which was Countess Violet’s bedroom, as the most powerful representation of twentieth-century portraiture in the castle’s impressive collection. Other gems at the castle include an Elizabethan miniature of Lord Herbert of Chirbury by Isaac Oliver and 19th century works by Sir Francis Grant. Only one other portrait of Violet hangs in the castle – a depiction of her as a young woman. This new acquisition complements the younger portrait by showing her in her later years conveying the formidable persona she developed.

Violet Lane-Fox, Countess of Powis was born in 1865 and died in 1929. She was the daughter of Baron Darcy de Knayth and his wife Mary. A significant figure in the castle’s history, she was lady of the house between the years of 1890 and 1929. She persuaded her husband to entrust the entire management of the deteriorating gardens at Powis Castle to her in 1911. During the last years of her life she worked hard to revive the castle’s grounds, giving them the form so widely admired today. The evocative charcoal portrait was drawn around the very time that she took over the management of the gardens. It shows her in her maturity and conveys her pride and confidence as garden designer and lady of the house.

It was probably on personal recommendation that Sargent came to draw the Countess of Powis in 1912 as he was, by then, a household name. He had announced his retirement from portraiture at the height of his popularity in 1907, but for those he admired in Edwardian high society he would offer a charcoal drawing as a substitute for an oil painting. He drew many significant figures over the years between his retirement from traditional portraiture and his death. Most of the drawings were done in a single sitting and comprised of the head and shoulders. The Powis portrait is a perfect representation of Sargent’s typical style.

Art Fund | Anna Orton | Powis Castle | John Singer Sargent |

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