This charcoal portrait of Dame Ethel Mary Smyth (1858-1944) by John Singer Sargent appeared in a Sargent exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. It was given to the National Portrait Gallery in London by the sitter’s sitter's nieces Mrs. Elwes J Mrs. Williamson, and lady Grant Lawson, in 1944.
Ethel Smyth was a prominent and gifted British composer of opera, oratorios, and concertos. She was also a celebrated singer, noted for “the rare and exquisite quality and delicacy of her voice, the strange thrill and wail, ... and the whirlwind of passion and feeling she evoked.” To convey the effect of her music, Sargent made this drawing while she sat at the piano singing “the most desperately exciting song's” in her repertoire.
Smyth brought equal passion to the cause of women's rights. She worked with Emmeline Pankhurst and wrote “The March of the Women” (1911), the anthem of the suffragist movement. In a speech before the National Society for Women's Service, her close friend Virginia Woolf declared Smyth “of the race of pioneers, of pathmakers. She has gone before and felled trees and blasted rocks and built bridges and thus made a way for those who come after her.” -- NPG
Sargent's portrait of Ethel Smyth appeared in a number of American newspapers including the
Shreveport Caucasian. “Der Wald”, “The Forest” was a 1902 one act Opera by Ethel Smith and Henry Brewster.
Miss Smyth Singing at the Piano
[From a drawing by John S. Sargent, R.A.]
The Freeland, PA, Tribune had this item on January 28, 1903.
:Boudoir Chat: Miss Ethel Smyth, composer of the recently produced opera, “Der Wald,” is the first composer of her sex to have a work produced at Covent Garden.
The Classical Nerd discusses Ethel Smyth at Great Composers:
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