Illustration © The Estate of John David Roberts. Reproduced with the permission of the William Roberts Society. Catalogue information based on the catalogue raisonné by David Cleall. For this and full details of the exhibitions cited, see the links below. Any auction prices quoted may not include all fees and taxes, such as VAT and Artist's Resale Right charges.


Helen (aka Helen Brook), c.1934
Oil on canvas, 43.5 cm x 32.9 cm

Helen Knewstub (1907–97) was the eldest daughter of John Knewstub of the Chenil Galleries, where in 1923 Roberts had his first one-man show, and for a time she worked as her father's secretary at the gallery. After an unsuccessful first marriage, in the early 1930s she spent some time painting in Paris, where her friends included the artists Michael Salaman and Gwen John. In 1937 she married the banker Ralph Ellis 'Robin' Brook – later also painted by Roberts – and after his knighthood, in 1974, she became Lady Brook. She became a volunteer for the Family Planning Association in 1949, and in 1963 she founded the Brook Advisory Centres to provide contraceptive advice for young people. She was appointed a CBE for her work in 1995. She was a friend of Sarah Roberts throughout her life
PROVENANCE: The sitter's family > National Portrait Gallery (2019, as Helen Brook, NPG 7077)
EXHIBITION HISTORY: Lefevre Gallery (1) 1935 ('[Roberts's] portrait heads, such as "Helen," are worth the most careful study for their translation of "facts into form," and anybody who wishes to be given artistic dignity should be painted by him' – The Times, 9 Feb. 1935)

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