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Dora Byrne

Richard von Marientreu

oil on canvas (frame: 145.0 cm x 106.0 cm, support: 126.0 cm x 87.0 cm)
Image not available (NC)

Dora Byrne (1895–1972) was the fourth child of Doretta and Stuart Alexander, the owner of a farming property near Albury, New South Wales. Dora married Leslie Nichol Walford, the youngest son of colonial Sydney businessman, William Barnard Walford, in 1917. Their only child, Leslie Nichol Walford junior, who was to achieve renown as an interior decorator, was born in 1927. Following her husband’s death in 1929, Dora became increasingly involved in charity and fundraising work. In 1936, as Dora Sheller (and a widow for the second time), she helped establish the Black & White Committee of the Royal Blind Society of NSW, and served as the Committee’s first president. In 1938, Dora left Sydney for England accompanied by Leslie and her third husband, Ben Knowles-Davies (who died in the course of the journey). In England during the war, Dora worked as a salvage officer for Winchester County Council. She married again in 1944; her fourth husband, Lawrence Byrne, was then serving with the British army. They remained in London until 1951, when they returned to Australia and settled at Burradoo in the Southern Highlands. Dora Byrne died in Sydney in 1972.

Richard von Marientreu (1902–1991) was born in Poland and attended military academies in Cracow and Vienna before leaving for Prague, where he studied at the Academy of Painting. In London from 1933, von Marientreu was introduced into fashionable society by his patron, Mrs Marie Ludlow- Symonds. He was soon in demand as a portrait painter, many of his subjects coming from high-ranking sections of the military and society, including royalty. Between 1935 and 1955, he created portraits of sitters such as King George V; Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother; and Field-Marshal Viscount Montgomery. He also exhibited regularly throughout this period, often with large scale genre paintings dealing with subjects such as mythology, war and historical scenes. His obituary in The Times recalled him as ‘a very gentle man, and immaculately turned out, choosing always to paint, no matter what the subject, in one of the same Savile Row tailored suits that he might wear to one of his exhibition openings’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Gift of the Estate of Leslie Walford AM 2013

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Richard von Marientreu (age 49 in 1951)

Dora Byrne (age 56 in 1951)

Donated by

The Estate of Leslie Walford (3 portraits)

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