Thérèse Lessore came from a well-known family of artists. Her father Jules was a watercolourist, and her grandfather worked as a designer for Wedgwood. She studied at the Slade School, and was afterwards distinguished by her independent spirit and manner of practice that resisted any categorization of her work, which included landscapes, interiors, and circus scenes. In 1926, she married the painter Walter Sickert. He had long been an admirer of her work, praising both her human interest and her ability to grasp the essentials of being and movement, presenting them ‘by some strange alchemy of genius … in ordered and rhythmical arrangement of the highest technical brevity and beauty’ (Whitechapel, published in ‘The New Age’, 1914). When Lessore and Sickert moved to Kent, the annual hop harvest provided a rich source of material for her painting. The harvest began in early September and lasted up to a month. It needed a large force of manual labour and London Eastenders, itinerants and travellers migrated to join local men, women and children, to collect the hops from the tendril-like growths trained up strings onto a network of poles and wires set out across the fields. Hand picking continued until the 1960s, when it was replaced by mechanical methods. Lessore produced a series of paintings of the hopfields and its labourers. Here, set within the green tunnels of the alleys along which the pickers worked, a mother pulls the hops into the bins used for collecting. The only member of the family exempt from trying to earn a few pounds – the baby – sits in its pram in regal splendour. Both are bathed in the bright sunlight of early autumn. Sickert and Lessore moved to Thanet in 1934, and lived there until 1938. The models are Wendela Boreel, a painter and etcher born in 1895, and her son, James Wylde.
Where to see this painting?
The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds
Parkinson Building, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, LS2 9JT
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purchased with the assistance of the Friends of Leeds University Arts & Music, and the Audrey and Stanley Burton Charitable Trust, 1997