Completed Dress and Textiles, Portraits: British 20th C 23 Is this a May Bridges Lee self portrait from 1917 or later?

Topic: Execution date

Lee exhibited 'The Artist' in the 1917 exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (no 78). Could this be that painting? If not, can we establish when this one dates from?
Note from Collection: the current c.1925 date is an estimate - no specific documentation for the artwork includes that date. Recorded documentation: 'oil painting by May B. Lee (Lady Stott), Self portrait of artist at work'.

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The portrait has been re-dated to c.1930. The Buckman biography for the artist should appear within the artist’s profile soon as part of an update that will see over 2,000 more biographies from that source integrated into the Art UK website.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


M M Gilchrist,

Is that a part of a date below her signature at the bottom of the painting?

Jacinto Regalado,

Lou Taylor should look at this for fashion-based dating. I think the hair is probably later than 1917 and could be late 1920s.

Jacinto Regalado,

In 1917 she would have been 33. She might conceivably be that age in this picture, but I expect she was probably older.

Kieran Owens,

As she looks the same age or older in this portrait than she does in the above-referenced photograph from 1929, when she was already 45, it is unlikely that this work dates from any time much earlier than that year.

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Jacinto Regalado,

Kieran, being anything but high-tech myself, I am curious as to how you and others make image composites. Is it some special software or online site that does that for you?

Kieran Owens,

Hi Jacinto,

it is nothing more than taking a series of screen shots (Option-Command-3 on Apple). Start by dragging this Discussion's image onto your desktop. Now open the 1929 photo above and drag it on to the desktop. Open them both, size then + or - and place them beside each other so that their top and bottom horizontals match. Take a screen shot. You should have a composite but with a lot of other desktop clutter surrounding it. Now use the "Take screenshot from selection" option in Preview and crop out the area that you want. Name it and there is you finished composite, no special software and no online sites needed.

I hope that works for you.

Best wishes,


Osmund Bullock,

I do it differently on my *very* old PC using basic Paint (generally pre-installed on PCs). It avoids the reduction in quality you get using screen-shots, but looks to be more complex than Kieran's method - getting the size of the images to match is especially fiddly, and involves some arithmetic, so I won't go into it here.

Hilary Underwood,

In my view, the short waved hair, quite sleek to the side of the head, the line of the bodice with the shallow low bust line and the waist at natural level are characteristic of the early 1930s. I have just checked through the portraits of young and middle aged women in RA illustrated for 1918, which is the closest in date to the disputed date I have to hand. The vast majority of women still wear their hair long in this period. The fashionable style is softly wavy, but with bulk over the forehead and at the sides of the head. The late Queen Mary represents this style in fossilised form. A simpler current style, found among countrywomen and women in the semi-avant-garde, dresses the hair in a low chignon, taken softly from a centre parting - see George Clausen A Girl in Black 1913 Leeds City Art Gallery, or William Rothenstein, 'Eric Gill and Alice Rothenstein,' c. 1914, NPG. or indeed Duncan Grant's portrait of Vanessa bell in a red dress NPG c.1915/18 in my opinion. When the few avant-garde women did cut their hair short around 1917, they seem to have favoured a STRAIGHT (sorry no italics so must capitalise for emphasis) and boyish 'bob'. This may be represented in W Strang's 'Louise' RA Illustrated 1918, p. 54, and is certainly shown in Roger Fry's various portraits of Nina Hamnet during their short lived affair in 1917 - eg that in the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery University of Leeds or that in the Courtauld Galleries. So I agree with the other commentators - the hairstyle rules out a 1917 date.

Jacinto, I was in touch recently with Lou Taylor and she was in touch at the weekend saying she was going to look into another case. I have asked for her additionally to review this discussion on fashion-based dating, as you suggested back in March. David

Marcie Doran,

Jacinto, I work on an iPad and make composites using the very logical website. In the search box in the orange area at the top of the page, I type in either “merge” for a side-by-side composite or “mirror” to flip an image. For a merge, I choose two files and then touch the green “MERGE!” that is at the bottom of the page. Once I have the merged image, I save it as a photo (“png” option above the merged image). Then I “view” it, I press down on the image to select “add to photos”, and then I download it to Acrobat so that I can give it a name.

Jacinto Regalado,

Thank you, Marcie. That may be simple enough for someone like me.

Lou Taylor, Dress and Textiles,

I am so sorry I missed this first time round. The hairstyle here is waved above the ears in a kind of 'natural' look.This type of waved hair became fashionable at the same time as the smooth sleek mid 1920s look. The style in this portrait lasted into the early 1930s. The crossover garment is no help sadly. My feeling is that this is around 1930.. She would have been 46 then...

see images

- Packers SHAMPOO AD 1924. .. [TTICPAPER.COM]

-Ethel Mary Tiegs,_photo,_1927 WIKEMEDIA.j