Private Collection

Amy Gladys Donovan (1898 - 1984)

Self Portrait, 1926

SKU: 2812
Signed with monogram, and inscribed Amy Galdys Donavan
13 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. (34.3 x 26.7 cm.)


Height – 34.3cm x Width – 26.7cm


Collection of Frances Fyfield

First looked at her online, late at night, entranced first of all by the

buttons. Two on the cuff of the visible sleeve and another eight on her

dress, leading away from her convoluted hands, down from her knees to

the invisible floor of the balcony on which she sits. The buttons are the

same colour as the shawl collar of the garment, and they form a defining

line. So, I called her Girl with Buttons’ until she was with me, so to

speak, and I saw so much more.

Here is Amy Gladys Donovan, defining herself with her signature in

script in the top right-hand corner and her elaborate AD at the bottom

left. “This is ME”, she seems to be saying. “This is Amy.”

We have a three-quarter profile, featuring an interesting, long face

with artful black hair, mouth slightly open. Rather lovely and shy, an

ingénue with a touch of ferocity, innocence and resistance. The colours

are controlled. Scant knowledge of her life indicates that her military

father did not approve of her career in art. Is that the balcony behind,

and has it anything to do with all those buttons?

She sits not centre stage, but left of. Amy Donovan, uncertain, with

anxious, convoluted hands, knew what to do with the space surrounding

herself. (My own definition of design.) She is wonderfully designed,

utterly personal, vulnerable and powerful.

Commentary by Frances Fyfield, a one-time criminal lawyer, who went on to write twenty-four crime novels, some of which

reflect a lifelong passion for undervalued British art. She has won several awards for her writing and is

the presenter of the Radio 4 series Tales from the Stave.

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Amy Gladys Donovan
Amy Gladys
1898 - 1984

Amy Gladys Donovan was the daughter of an officer in the Indian
army, and spent much of her early life in India. Upon moving
to England in 1911, her artistic ambitions were met with some
resistance from her family, but she eventually enrolled at the Slade
School of Fine Art. 

Between 1936 and 1938 she took part in numerous exhibitions,
including at the RBA, the NEAC and the Royal Cambrian

Struggling with familial disapproval, however, she moved away
from the experimental Impressionist works that garnered her original
success and spent her later years taking commissions for portraits.