barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


A Portrait of the Artist’s Wife, ‘Froanna’

USA, 1940

Pencil and coloured chalks on blue paper


This portrait of the artist’s wife Gladys Hoskins (1900–1979), known as Froanna, was made in America where Lewis spent the war years.

The artist bought the distinctive blue paper in a drugstore and the unusual support perhaps inspired his use of coloured chalks. With the exception of the ornate turban, the artist restricts himself to bold lines and a few areas of shading. Nonetheless, he captures a sense of strain and intensity in the sitter, enhanced by the lack of a setting.

Throughout the 1930s, Lewis had kept Froanna in the background and many of his friends and acquaintances were unaware of her existence. Her beauty and youth ensured that Lewis was extremely protective of his wife, with her consequently becoming a model for some of Lewis’s most intriguing and intimate portraits, as shown through this slightly later work. Lewis was one of the leading British avant-garde artists who explored the lessons of continental modernism.


Purchased 2006 with assistance from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Art Fund (NACF)