Polly and Dolly Barnard


“No small dabs of colour – you want plenty of paint to paint with”. Sargent.

When I was a student, thirty years ago, I lived in Camberwell, a walkable walk from the Tate (now Tate Britain). I walked this walk pretty much every weekend. There were a handful of works I would always scrutinise. This square was cut from an image of one of them. Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer-Sargent, 1885-86. Seen in the flesh, it is one of the most exquisite paintings I have ever seen. I had subconsciously thought the title of the work referred to the girls’ names. I scrutinised the brushstrokes, not the commas. Having not seen the painting for a number of years, I saw it again recently-ish, as part of the Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. It was there that it dawned on me, the title could not be the girls’ names. My irrational dislike of artists who do not name their sitters reared its ugly head.

Turns out the title is taken from a song by Joseph Mazzinghi, ‘The Wreath’. The girls are Polly (right) and Dolly Barnard, daughters of illustrator Frederick Barnard.

It was presented to the Tate by the Trustees of The Chantrey Bequest, 1887.

You can see my whole piece here.

The square was cut from ‘What’s On, March-May 2015’, NPG.


3 thoughts on “Polly and Dolly Barnard

  1. Pingback: London Pairs Patchwork | Alison Sye

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