Ambrose McEvoy, volumes containing photographs of oil paintings and watercolours

Scope and Content

The two volumes are titled 'Works of Ambrose McEvoy 1900-1919' and contain photographs of paintings by McEvoy. The volumes contain 163 photographs, the majority having been photographed by Paul Laib, most of the pictures photographed are portraits but some landscapes are included. The first volume contains photographs of oil paintings and the second volume watercolours. The front cover of both volumes bears the inscription 'Mary from The Wigses', it is believed Mary refers to McEvoy's wife and that the Wigses were Mr and Mrs Claude Johnson, with Claude Johnson being the editor of the volume. The volumes were part of a set of 16 copies which had been produced for private circulation only, this pair were the first of the 16 copies. Contained within the volumes is a list of works by McEvoy including details of the title and dimensions of works, the exhibition they were first shown at, the date finished, details of owners and the page number of the image of the work if it has been included in the volume. There are some annotations contained within the list recording details of changes in ownership and updates of name changes, i.e. the married names of female sitters, the annotations were possibly made by Mary McEvoy.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ambrose McEvoy (1878-1927) was born in Crudwell, Wiltshire, the elder son of Captain Charles Ambrose McEvoy and his wife Jane Mary. His father was an Irish-American mercenary who served in the Confederate army in the American Civil War, after his American service he settled in England. Captain McEvoy was a friend of James Abbott McNeill Whistler (whose brother had served with McEvoy in the Confederate army) and Whistler joined him in encouraging Ambrose McEvoy's ambition to become a painter.

At 15 McEvoy entered the Slade School of Fine Art in London, where he studied alongside Augustus John. In 1898 he embarked on an affair with John's sister and fellow painter Gwen John, who was devastated when McEvoy became engaged to fellow Slade student Mary Augusta Spencer Edwards (1870-1941) in 1900. They married in 1902 and had two children.

McEvoy exhibited his quietist and eclectic small paintings of figures in interiors at the New English Art Club from 1900. In 1909 he went to Dieppe with Walter Sickert and in the following years his painting began to show signs of the broader, looser treatment that characterised his later work. In 1915 he exhibited a portrait of his wife 'Madame' at the National Portrait Society, the positive reception it received led him to be in huge demand as a painter of fashionable women, including Consuelo, duchess of Marlborough and the actress Lillah McCarthy (NPG 5506).

McEvoy's principal patron was Claude Johnson, chairman of Rolls Royce, who commissioned his portrait of the aviator Sir John Alcock (NPG 1894). In 1920 McEvoy was invited to New York by American patrons, exhibiting works at the Duveen Galleries. At the peak of his career, McEvoy was painting up to 25 oil portraits a year. In 1924 he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy and a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, while in 1926 he became an associate of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours. McEvoy died of pneumonia in January 1927; he was survived by his wife.

This biographical description is largely based on Martin Hardie, revised by Robin Gibson, 'McEvoy, (Arthur) Ambrose' Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, September 2004 [https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/34718, accessed 08 May 2018]

Access Information

Available to view by appointment in the Heinz Archive and Library Public Study Room, to make an appointment contact Archive Reception . Although records are generally available for public consultation, some information in them, such as personal data or information supplied to the Gallery in confidence, may be restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Personal photography is permitted for research purposes only. Photocopying is not permitted.