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Harold Squire (1881-1959)


Signed and inscribed with title on reverse

Oil on board

13 x 16 inches

Mrs Robert Mathias, 15 Montagu Square, Marylebone, London

'A Century of British Art: 1900-1945', Chris Beetles Gallery, 21 June-17 July 2021, No 122

Harold Squire is likely to have made his first visit to the isle of Capri, in the Bay of Naples, not long before the First World War. He showed two views of Monte Solaro, the island’s highest point, at the New English Art Club in the winter of 1913, and a painting of the mainland from the island at ‘Twentieth Century Art: A Review of Modern Movements’, held at Whitechapel Art Gallery in the spring of 1914. However, his largest group of paintings of Capri was possibly that shown at the Goupil Gallery in 1919, some of which were purchased for Johannesburg Art Gallery. Either the visit before the war had proved so inspiring to Squire that he continued to generate compositions of the island, or he returned there soon after the war had ended.

The present example of Squire’s paintings of Capri shows a spot high above Matermania with a view across to Punta Campanella on the mainland. Its great appeal as an image is almost matched in this instance by the interest of its provenance.

The work was once owned by Mrs Robert Mathias (1874-1935) of 15 Montagu Square, Marylebone, who was born Helena Wertheimer, and known as Ena. She was the third child of the antiques dealer, Asher Wertheimer, who had a gallery at 158 Bond Street. He commissioned a series of 12 portraits of members of his family from John Singer Sargent, which comprised the largest private commission that the artist ever received. Ten of these are now in the collection of the Tate, including the two of Ena. The first, from 1901, shows her with her younger
sister, Betty, while the second, from 1905, shows her alone. Entitled A Vele Gonfie, which is Italian for ‘in full sail’, this second painting was a wedding gift from her father.

Ena Wertheimer married Robert Moritz Mathias in 1905 at the West London Synagogue, upper Berkeley Street. Mathias worked for his uncle, the distinguished industrial chemist, Ludwig Mond (who is also remembered for the collection of old masters that he bequeathed to the National Gallery). They would have five children.

Like her sister Betty, Ena studied at the Slade School of Art, and developed a great passion for the arts, becoming a collector, hostess and patron (known for her support of the Ballets Russes). Among her various roles, she was the owner of the Claridge Gallery, Brook Street, which, during the late 1920s and early 30s, mounted a wide range of exhibitions of contemporary artists. These included one in 1926 of flower paintings, which featured works by Harold Squire.