Colourist's muse in black leads art sale

STYLISH and haughty, her black hat deftly tilted, she looks out of the classic Scottish painting of the early 20th century, daring anyone to question her.

Miss Bertia Don Wauchope appeared for over 15 years in the works of the Colourist artist Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, but the relationship between the painter and his muse has proved something of a mystery.

The Black Hat, Miss Don Wauchope, is the leading work in Sotheby's sale of Scottish pictures next month. It is one of about 25 pictures he painted of her, often wearing black with black hats.

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Cadell is thought to have first met her in 1911. He was expanding his artistic repertoire, and painting society portraits.

However, unlike the professional models who worked for most artists in the Royal Scottish Academy, Miss Don Wauchope, who lived from 1864 to 1944, was an Edinburgh lady of independent means.

She was a member of a leading Scottish family, it was said, who posed because she wanted to be painted, rather than for pay. She also posed for Cadell's fellow Colourist, SJ Peploe.

"She was an Edinburgh society sort of lady, but I know absolutely nothing about the family at all," said the art dealer and Cadell biographer, Tom Hewlett.

"She was stylish and haughty, but that's what he was about as an artist. He painted things that were striking and attractive."

Hewlett ruled out any romantic relationship between artist and model. Cadell's sister referred to him as "not the man in kind", and he is believed to have been homosexual. Art historians have pointed out his butler, Charles, also featured in a number of his pictures, suggesting the pair may have had a particularly close relationship.

The portrait of Miss Don Wauchope is expected to fetch up to 500,000. With Colourist paintings riding the soaring art markets, the Sotheby's sale has the biggest group ever offered, with 40 works expected to fetch more than 2.5 million.

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Her first real appearance in Cadell's art was in the painting Afternoon, in 1913. Major portraits that followed include A Portrait of a Lady in Black, in the National Galleries of Scotland, and other works in Edinburgh's City Art Centre and Glasgow galleries.

She is thought to be the model for Interior with a Lady Seated, also in a black hat and dress, in the Manchester City Gallery.

His paintings of her are prized for a particularly intimate quality, with a sitter he knew so well, and whose aristocratic elegance he could convey.

"Black and white was particularly favoured with Cadell," said Simon Toll, an expert in Scottish pictures at Sotheby's. "He had black painted floors in the studio in which this was painted. It was seen as being quite a glamorous tone."

The painters John Singer Sargent and John Lavery, both important influences on his work, also painted women in black.

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