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THE SITWELLS: And the Arts of the 1920s and 1930s \o7...

March 05, 1995|Susan Reynolds

THE SITWELLS: And the Arts of the 1920s and 1930s (The National Portrait Gallery, London: $49.95) This is the catalogue to the supremely elegant exhibit now on at the National Portrait Gallery in London, curated by Robin Gibson and Honor Clerk. The text relies heavily on the Sitwell biographies of John Pearson, Victoria Glendinning and Sara Bradford. For a family whose fortune came from the production of iron nails, the Sitwells, particularly siblings Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell (pictured above) moved quickly on to idle sport, hounds, horses and nothing less than the fate of cosmopolitan culture in England. They did not have normal childhoods. Their father Sir George (a baronet at the age of 2), and his "beautiful feckless wife" (feckless?) Lady Ida (who was later convicted of fraud due to enormous Madame Bovary-style debts) raised them like blanched asparagus. Herein lies the debris of the Sitwell siblings' lifelong battle against the Philistines: Paintings, portraits by Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell and endless others, photographs, chapbooks, jewelry, antiques, all the trappings of this latter-day Dior trio. The air is thin up here, and everybody's having a marvelous time.

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