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The artist Derwent Lees circa 1917. National Portrait Gallery NPG D5046
Self portrait - drawing in sanguine (red chalk) held at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia circa 1909
A view of the centre of Bourton village by Derwent Lees circa 1916. Photo courtesy of Lynn Davies, Australia
A view looking south by the Old Vicarage, Bourton by Derwent Lees circa 1916. Photo courtesy of Lynn Davies, Australia. Original with the Whitworth Institute, Manchester.

Derwent Lees - an early 20th century Artist

We are grateful to Lynn Davies from Tasmania, Australia, for drawing our attention to the early 20th century artist, Derwent Lees. The following information was researched and written by Lynn.

Derwent Lees was born in Tasmania in 1884, the tenth child of a banker from Leominster England. At the age of 21 he enrolled at London’s Slade Art School finishing in 1908, where upon he became Slade’s Assistant Drawing Master, a position he held until the 1918. As a Slade academic Derwent mixed with a range of artists and collectors, one of whom was Cyril Butler of Bourton House. Cyril was a founder, treasurer and chairman of the British Contemporary Art Society (CAS) and it is probably through these connections that the two met around 1910. Both CAS and Cyril purchased his works. Cyril was also a close friend of Derwent’s Slade colleagues Henry Tonks and Philip Wilson Steer, the latter of whom did a large mural decoration for Bourton House at the turn of the century and a portrait of Mrs Butler with her children. It is likely that Philip organised for Derwent to spend the 1916 summer at Bourton House as a lot of artists had done. Derwent exhibited seven works from his painting trip at the 56th New English Art Club exhibition in the winter of 1916. They were In a Rock Garden, The Drive, The Vista, Village street Bourton, Two Haystacks, The Bend in the Road, and Bourton Cross. Sadly by the end of the War personal and health issues caught up with Derwent and in 1919 he was committed to Claybury Mental Hospital and later to Surrey’s West Park Hospital where he died in 1931. Today his paintings are in more than 40 public institutions, across five countries, most of which are in England.

Cyril Butler acted as host to other artists at around this time being; Ambrose McEvoy, who stayed at a cottage in Lower Bourton 1904 - 6; Philip Wilson Steer 1899 - 1902; Donald Maclaren 1910 -11; William Roberts 1912.


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