top of page

Hedwig E. Pillitz

(London 1896-1987)

Head Study of the Dancer, Sir Anton Dolin (1904-1983), c. 1929  *RESERVED*

oil on panel

signed lower right ‘PILLITZ’ and inscribed verso ‘SKETCH OF DOLIN/ H.E. PILLITZ/ 29 ABERCORN PLACE, LONDON NW8’

40 x 30 cm.


From the artist’s estate;

Private collection, London.

Sir Anton Dolin (1904-1983) was born Patrick Healey-Kay in Slinfold, East Sussex. He was the first British in­ter­na­tion­ally acclaimed Principle male dancer and helped to spread the appeal of ballet worldwide, dancing with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in the 1920s. Dolin's repu­ta­tion was akin to that which Rudolf Nureyev later enjoyed. Bronislava Nijinska said his dan­cing brought a vir­il­ity and ‘attack’ to the male clas­sic­al dance world. 

Dolin later foun­ded London Festival Ballet with Alicia Markova which eventually became the English National Ballet. His use of the Moniker Anton Dolin was a standard practice for the time, as dancers with Russian names were taken more seriously by critics. He had a noted affair with Diaghilev and a lifelong relationship with the dancer John Gilpin. Dolin was knighted in 1980.

Hedwig Pillitz was born in London to Hungarian Jewish émigrés, Arpad Armin Pillitz (1867-1947) and Josephine, née Fischer (1876-1965). She had two younger siblings, Doris (1905-1959) who became a successful stage actress, and George (1909-1981). They lived at 80 Canfield Gardens in South Hampstead, and it was there that the girls attended South Hampstead High School. By the 1920s Doris was studying drama at the Central School of Speech & Drama and Hedwig had exhibited works at the Paris Salon. It’s logical to assume that she may well have studied art in Paris. In 1924 she exhibited her first portrait at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, a portrait of ‘Madamoiselle Y’, possibly depicting the portrait photographer Yevonde (Yevonde Philone Middleton, née Cumbers (1893-1975)).

By 1926, Hedwig not only had a painting at the Paris Salon, she was also exhibiting a still life of flowers at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Nonetheless, portraits seem to have been her passion. She established her studio at 29 Abercorn Place in St. John’s Wood, painting a range of Bohemian and artistic sitters – fellow artists, writers, actors and models, including Marguerite Kelsey, a professional artist’s model most famously painted by Meredith Frampton (Tate Britain), the artist and novelist Barbara Comyns (with FEFA), Shulamith Shafir, a Ukrainian-Jewish concert pianist who made her London debut in 1936 aged just thirteen (Private Collection), the actress Dorothy Black (V&A, London), and the Chinese dancer and mother of contemporary Chinese dance, Tai Ai-lien (with FEFA). By 1940, when Pillitz exhibited the portrait of Tai Ai-lien at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition, she was represented by The Rowley Gallery on Church Street, in Kensington.

bottom of page