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J.D. Fergusson Portrait Leads Bonhams Edinburgh Sale

Mademoiselle Dryden, a portrait by the Scottish Colourist J.D. Fergusson, painted in Paris in the golden period before World War I, leads Bonhams 19th and 20th Century Pictures and Prints sale in Edinburgh on 8 December. It is estimated at £50,000-70,000.

Paris before the First World War was the centre of the art world and, from the moment he arrived in 1907, Fergusson enthusiastically adopted the life style of a Bohemian artist, socialising with Picasso and Matisse and frequenting the legendary cafes – the Pre-Catalan Restaurant, the Cage Harcourt and the Closerie des Lilas – from which he drew so much of his inspiration. A painting by Fergusson from this time, At the Milliner’s Paris, sold for £220,000 at Bonhams in August 2011.

The Mademoiselle Dryden of the portrait was Elizabeth Dryden, an American writer and critic who had been sent to Paris in 1905 by her employer, Rodman Wanamaker, to write fashion reviews for his Philadelphia department store trade magazine. These were to be illustrated by her friend Anne Estelle Rice. Both women became close friends of Fergusson – indeed, Rice become his mistress – and sat for him on many occasions. The striking Elizabeth was immortalised in two of the artist’s best works of the period, La Cocarde and Le Chapeau Jaune. Here, however, she is shown clad not in the latest couture but a red scarf to keep out the chill, a painter’s smock loose around her shoulders.

Fergusson was in the UK when World War I broke out and did not return to France for several years but Dryden stayed in Paris and her eyewitness account of the first few months of the conflict, ‘Paris in Herrick Days’, first published in 1915, is considered a minor classic.

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