Sir William Orpen RA RHA (1878-1931) PORTRAIT OF GERTRUDE

Sir William Orpen RA RHA (1878-1931)
PORTRAIT OF GERTRUDE, COUNTESS OF DUDLEY, NÉE MILLAR (1879-1952) HALF LENGTH, IN A WHITE DRESS AND RED CLOAK WITH FUR-TRIMMED COLLAR, WEARING A MULTIPLE STRING OF PEARLS
Signed l.r., oil on canvas
76 x 61cm

Gertie Millar was born in 1879 in Bradford and started her career at the age of 13 at the St. James's Theatre in Manchester. Later she moved to London and by 1897 she was well established as a stage favourite. In 1902, she married Lionel Monckton, a talented composer of musical comedies, who subsequently wrote a number of hit songs for her. Despite great success together in the theatre, Gertie’s marriage to Lionel Monckton was not a happy one.

The gossip columns carried many stories about the popular showgirl and in 1913 there were rumours of a liaison with the Duke of Westminster, with both reportedly about to divorce their respective spouses so that they could marry each other. How true these stories were is open to debate, as even though they were estranged for many years, Monckton always refused to grant his wife a divorce. The tale is given added piquancy by the rumour that George V and Queen Mary personally intervened in the scandal to persuade the Duke of Westminster not to divorce his wife.

Monckton died in 1924 and, two months later, Gertie married the Earl of Dudley, William Humble Ward (1867-1932) who succeeded to the earldom in 1885 and with it the great wealth of his family’s mines and ironworks. Gertie Millar, the working-class girl from Yorkshire who grew up to be one of the best loved stars and most photographed women of the Edwardian era, had become Lady Dudley.

Gertrude, Countess of Dudley, died at her home in Chiddingfold in 1952 aged 73. She left an estate valued at £52,354.

In 2012 the National Portrait Gallery held an exhibition: 'Gertie Millar, Countess of Dudley: From Stage to Society' and they hold an extensive collection of photographs of her.

Orpen met the Earl when he stayed with him at Screeb House, Camus, County Galway, Ireland. This friendship almost certainly led to the commissioning of this portrait.

Sold for £35,000


Condition report
London (England), October 29th, 1905 - Shortly after Gertie Millar had become the wife of the composer Lionel Monckton, an ardent admirer broke into her home, a mansion in fashionable Russell Square, and committed suicide in her boudoir. Gunther Holzhausen was a German nobleman, the scion of a rich and powerful family, who had fallen head over heels in love with Miss Millar after being introduced to her in Nice. He followed her to London where she had tea with him a few times, but subsequently tried to distance herself from him when his obsession became clear. Trying to avoid further contact with him, she consistently refused his promises of expensive gifts made to induce her to resume her friendship with him. He became such a nuisance that he had to be barred from the theatre where Gertie was appearing, and to her relief seemed to disappear for a while. Until, that is, the fateful night when he gained entry to Gertie's home by breaking in through a window, and committed suicide in her boudoir by blowing his brains out with a revolver. Gertie and Lionel Monckton were sleeping in an upstairs room when the shot rang out, and Lionel immediately locked the room containing the dying man until the police and a surgeon arrived.

 

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The auction details are as follows:

Auction: SPRING COUNTRY HOUSE SALE, Tue, 10th Mar 2015

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6 March 2015 9.00am - 5.00pm 8 March 2015 10.00am - 1.00pm 9 March 2015 9.00am - 5.00pm 10 March 2015 from 9.00am

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