Edmond Brock at Mount Stewart

On our annual visit to Northern Ireland we visited Mount Stewart, as usual, and saw the largely invisible reconstruction that has taken place (as recorded in 6 programmes on UTV.) Everything spick and span, but not too modern-looking. A peculiar form of reinstatement of some imaginary period chosen as the house’s finest moment. Such are the vagaries of curatorial taste and fashion.

Anyway, one of the glories of this marvellous estate is the enormous portrait of Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry, with her 3 daughters by the obscure English RA portraitist, Edmond Brock (1882-1952). It is called Circe and the Sirens and was painted in 1925, when perhaps the Londonderry fortunes were at their apogee. He seems to have achieved what little fame he had by being patronised by Lady Edith; there are a number of family portraits in the house. This one is stunning and very beautiful, in a rich, flowery, finely-painted way which would not meet with any critical favour now. It is an aristocratic swagger portrait and very splendid. Tucking it away in a room described (there is no table) as a billiard room (by definition, a man’s room), is odd, especially as the vast picture dominates one wall of the comparatively small and insignificant room just off the entrance hall. But there it is and at least one can get close to it to look at it.

The internet says little about this artist except that he got muddled up with another RA portraitist with the same name and overlapping dates.