Marguerite Kelsey and a magnolia by Meredith Frampton, 1928
What an exquisite specimen. The woman is quite lovely too. When Meredith Frampton (1894 – 1984) painted Marguerite Kelsey’s portrait in 1928 he achieved excellence, stunningly matching her particular kind of beauty with a particularly beautiful plant. This is an image that is all about poise and pride, class and dignity, but mostly, splendid beauty. What better way to show this than with a magnolia. And not any old magnolia, but THE magnolia of all magnolias – Magnolia grandiflora, commonly known as Evergreen Magnolia in the UK. Those dark green, leathery leaves, full bodied creamy blossoms and regal sceptre-like peduncle with blood red branding, says everything we need to know about the quality on display. It is reported that Frampton acquired the magnolia flowers at a nearby stately home, but unlike his stoic model who could sit for hours, he had to paint it quickly, as he was unable to make it stay upright for very long. The warm glow of the plant, lights up Kelsey’s face, no wonder she is sitting as close to it as possible.
Magnolia grandiflora is a large, rounded evergreen shrub or tree, native to South Eastern United Sates and brought to the UK in the 18th Century, becoming widely planted in gardens.