Flowering Cactus

Dora Carrington

(Hereford, 1893 - Newbury, 1932)

Flowering Cactus

75 x 45 cm

Alix Strachey, née Sargant-Florence, and James Strachey
Simonette Strachey
By descent

J. Hill, The Art of Dora Carrington,  London, 1995, p. 112, illus.

Carrington trained at the Slade School of Fine Art in London where she met John Nash, who encouraged her interest in wood-engraving, and Mark Gertler, whose powerful figure paintings influenced her own approach to portraiture. She set up home with the essayist and biographer Lytton Strachey (1880–1932), first at Tidmarsh Mill, near Pangbourne, Berks, then at Ham Spray, between Newbury and Hungerford, Berks. In 1921 she married Ralph Partridge, living with him and Strachey in a ménage à trois, surrounded by many of the writers and artists of the period, notably those of the Bloomsbury Group. After Strachey's death in 1932 from stomach cancer, Carrington took her own life.

Jane Hill wrote about the present painting ‘Carrington took a different approach again when she painted a red flowering cactus, perhaps one of the rare cactuses that Dorelia had given her in July 1931 for her hothouse. Such was her eagerness to paint it, she put the pot, still in its tissue paper, into a saucer of water and then placed it on the bare wooden floor against the corner of a blue wall; lightly painting it, by tone, almost twice the size she had been painting portraits.’

James Strachey, who owned the present picture, was the brother of Lytton Strachey.