Wednesday, August 30, 2023

630. Kathleen, Lady Kennet about Charles Shannon

Kathleen, Lady Kennet, posed for Shannon for several paintings, when she was still unmarried and known as Kathleen Bruce - see blog 628. Charles Ricketts: Statue by Kathleen Bruce (later Scott, later Lady Kennet).

Two years after her death in 1947, her second husband, Lord Kennet, published her memoirs: Self-Portrait of an Artist. From the Diaries and Memoirs of Lady Kennet, Kathleen Lady Scott (London, John Murray, 1949).

Kathleen Bruce, sitting for a portrait by Charles Shannon (1909) 

She reminisces about Charles Shannon in an account of her meeting with Captain Scott. She met Scott during a luncheon-party at Mabel Beardsley, and again, ten months afterwards, at a tea-party:

He suggested taking me home. I had not been going home; I had been going to dine in Soho with a gentle Academician, Charles Shannon, who was painting me. But without a second's hesitation I threw over my dining companion and announced myself ready to be taken home.

For ten months he was in her company, until work took him out of London.

I went back to my posing for Shannon and sat quietly hour after hour, wondering whether I could wrench myself from all my tumultuous friends and take this innocent rock as the father of my son for whom I had been searching.
"Kathleen," said Shannon, putting down his plate, "You don't love me at all to-day."
"But you've been working; you didn't want me to be chatty and interesting while you paint."
"You're not thinking about me or posing. You've got something on your mind. I know your face too well not to know that."
I smiled and was clam-like. Although this beautiful painter was thirty-eight, I was the first woman he had ever loved. I loved his work so deeply that we had become devoted friends. He painted portrait after portrait of me, and had success with them. They sold quickly for public galleries and one went to the Luxembourg. I loved sitting for him in the very exquisite surroundings of his lovely studio, and he taught me more than all the professors in Paris of design and harmony of line. There was quiet there and peace. I didn't want to ruffle that quiet content. What a lot of upheavals and severings I saw looming ahead. Yet quite clearly this healthy, fresh, decent, honest, rock-like naval officer was just exactly what I had been setting up in my mind as a contrast to my artists friends, as the thing I had been looking for. As I sat there in the quiet, temple-like studio, I made my decision.
We went out, I and the artist, to a Soho restaurant to dine. He took me home and came upstairs with me.
"Listen," I said, taking the lapels of his coat, "I'm going to marry someone."
The painter leant his back against the door.
"Whom?" he said. "Not X?"
"No, not X. You don't know him; he's not of our world at all. I'm sorry if you mind."
The gentle creature murmured, "You shouldn't be that; but I'll go home now."
And he moved hesitatingly downstairs.
Outside he walked blindly, with his head, I suppose, still swimming, and coming to the Sloane Street crossing walked straight into the traffic and under a bus. He was taken to St. George's Hospital. He was not killed, and I knew nothing about it till two days later, when it had become merely a funny little accident.
(Self-Portrait of an Artist, pp. 83-85)

Her memoirs contain a photograph of her sitting in Shannon's studio. Seated on a bench, her profile is shown in a mirror behind her; on the left are a statue and a fireplace.