Monday, August 23, 2010
The Lost Mother - Anne Summers
About the book
In 1933 Anne Summer's mother Eileen "Tuni" Hogan had her portrait painted by up and coming artist Constance Parkin. Over a few months Eileen had her portrait painted twice by Constance. It was forgotten about until an Aunt saw an article in the paper about Constance Parkin's art show. They were unable to purchase the portrait then, as it had been sold to a Mrs Lydia Mortill. The author's grandmother did purchase it at a later time though. After the death of her mother, the portrait was left to Anne and she began to dig into the history of the painting, the artist Constance Stokes and of Lydia Mortill. It is not just the story of the painting though, but the story of loss.
I thought this was quite an amazing book. Toward the end I thought it was more about the mother daughter relationship, than the history of Alice , the name given to the portrait of Eileen Hogan. It was touching how the author revealed the difficulties in her relationship with her mother, and by reading her diaries, she was better able to understand her.
Mostly the book was about now little known artist Constance Stokes nee Parkin. As someone who had never studied art I had never heard of Constance Stokes until I came across this book. It is sad that, while she was contemporary to and painted with artists like Sidney Nolan and Russell Drysdale, those are the names that are remembered while Stokes slipped almost into obscurity.
Perhaps the most interesting thread in this book is the story of Lydia Mortill nee Kliaguina. She came to Adelaide from England where she had found out her husband of six months had been killed fighting in France. She was originally from Russia. In Adelaide she met and married William Mortill. Her family had escaped to Latvia just before or during the Russian Revolution and were trapped there at the start of the Second World War.
I really enjoyed reading this book. This true story is more fascinating than most mystery novels because it deals with real people.