Phillip Connard, The Lilac Dress

23/02/201811:1521/02/2018 17:41Leave a Comment

Connard, Philip; The Lilac Dress; The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery;

This rather enigmatic portrait of a lady, known as The Lilac Dress, is one of the earliest paintings purchased for the museum’s fine art collection in 1926. The Lancashire-born artist Phillip Connard RA (1875-1958), first worked as a house painter and studied art part-time until he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art. He received a British Institution prize which enabled him to study in Paris. Like earlier British painters such as Walter Sickert and Wilson Steer, Connard’s time in the French capital shaped his artistic practice. Connard explored new painting techniques influenced by the French Impressionists, and he returned to France frequently after 1898.He developed a tonal impressionism in his painting, which can be seen in The Lilac Dress. The sitter’s identity is not as important as the expression of atmosphere through the interplay of light, shade and colour through the artist’s application of rapid, broken brush strokes used to delineate her figure, dress and her surroundings.  The Lilac Dress is of one of at least three female portraits by Connard which focus on colour and dress: Portrait of a Lady in Grey, Lady in Pink and The Red Gown which may have been completed around the same time.

Connard enjoyed a diverse career, working as a portrait and landscape painter, and also as an illustrator, textile designer, and as a teacher at the Lambeth School of Art. He was a founding member of National Portrait Society. During World War I he was an official war artist to the Royal Navy and he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1918, elected to the RA in 1925 and Keeper from 1945 to 1949. Some of Connard’s other notable work includes the murals for the lavishly-decorated Queen’s dolls’ house at Windsor, 1921-24, the painted decorations for the Viceroy’s House in New Delhi (both designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens) and the interior murals for the ocean liner RMS Queen Mary in 1935.

The Lilac Dress is currently on display in the art gallery at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

Written by Dr Samantha Howard (Curator, Arts)

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