Mother and Child


Mother and Child

1918 British

Offered by Lucy Johnson

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Mother and child 1918
Watercolour and pencil on paper
35.5 x 24.8 cm
Signed and dated l.r. in pencil, ‘Meninsky 1918’
Label removed by the previous owner from the verso of the frame:
‘William Marchant & Co./Pictures, Bronzes, Frames, Restorations/The Goupil Gallery/ 5 Regent Street/ Waterloo Place S.W. London’
Acquired from the Goupil Gallery exhibition by the grandmother of the mother of the former owner; by descent to Private Collection, Sydney
‘Bernard Meninisky, Mother and Child Drawings’, Goupil Gallery, London, 1919
Although not illustrated, the work has a direct lineage to the 27 drawings and 1 watercolour illustrated in Jan Gordon, Mother and Child. Twenty-eight drawings by Bernard Meninsky, John Lane, The Bodley Head, London,1920.

John Russell Taylor, Bernard Meninsky, Redcliffe Press, Bristol, 1990, pp: 24-25 for two illustrations of Mother and child watercolours and pp: 27-40 which discusses the Mother and child series from which the following is based.

Mother and child 1918 depicts Menininsky’s first born, David with his mother, Margaret (Peggy) O’Connor, the Irish born, Catholic daughter of a policeman. Meninsky and Margaret were married in 1917. When David was born, Meninsky was obsessed with images of motherhood and made a series of drawings and watercolours which were exhibited at the Goupil Gallery in 1919 and were published in a book by Jane Gordon in 1920. Wishing to be released from the army in 1918, shortly after David’s birth, Meninsky suffered some kind of nervous breakdown. Sent to Salisbury Road Military Hospital, Plymouth he met Jacob Epstein who had also been called up for the army and was stationed at Cornhill Barracks, Plymouth. In April 1918, Meninsky, who had become a naturalised British citizen on 1 March, was invalided out due to neurasthenia. In September 1918 Meninsky received a contract for six months from the British War Memorials Commission and was paid a stipend of 300 pounds a year plus expenses to paint a picture or series of pictures ‘representing typical London scenes, during and after the arrival of a train from the front.’ In 1919 Peggy had a second son, Philip. He had his first one man show at the Goupil Gallery of his Mother and Child drawings which sold very well and was critically acclaimed. Some nine drawings were bought by Epstein, Muirhead Bone, Aberdeen Art Gallery and other private collections (see Acknowledgements in Gordon).

A dramatic intervention in his life occurred eighteen months after the birth of his first child. His wife left with the two babies and her lover to France. After six months she broke off with him and returned to Meninsky carrying the other man’s child. Emotionally distraught, Meninsky turned her away and she returned to France to have the child, a daughter, but sadly Peggy died in childbirth. The daughter vanished without trace. Ironically the Mother and Child drawings were published the following year in 1920.

Height 35.50 cm (13.98 inches)
Width 24.80 cm (9.76 inches)
Meninsky, 1918, watercoour
Lucy Johnson

Lucy Johnson
Mailing address: Bartons Lodge
Berry End
MK17 9EB

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