Gwendoline Maud Syrie, née Barnardo (later Syrie Wellcome, later Syrie Maugham). Drypoint by Paul César Helleu, ca. 1901.
- Helleu, Paul, 1859-1927.
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About this work
The sitter was the daughter of Dr Thomas Barnardo, the founder of Dr Barnardo's Homes for orphans. In 1901, when she was 21, she went on a trip to Egypt and met there the pharmaceutical manufacturer Henry S. Wellcome, then aged 48. Syrie (as she was called) and Wellcome were married a few months later. This portrait, using the delicate technique called drypoint, was probably commissioned by Wellcome at about this time. They had one son, Henry Mounteney Wellcome, who in later life became a farmer. After nine years, Wellcome and she separated; she subsequently gave birth to a child whose father was the writer William Somerset Maugham; Wellcome obtained a divorce; and Syrie and Maugham were married and subsequently divorced. Syrie then started a successful career as an interior designer, combining a stylish mixture of Art Deco and Rococo themes with luxurious and unusual materials. She died in 1955, aged 76. The portrait is by Paul-César Helleu (1859-1927), a French artist who specialized in creating beautiful portraits of wealthy women. Despite the breakdown in their relationship, Henry S. Wellcome retained the portrait in his collection