Obituary: Deirdre Bland

Deirdre kept her youthful spirit to the end, writes Graham Hughes. Even when she could barely speak after a stroke, and with the terrible debilitation of Parkinson's disease, her lively eye would suddenly flash with spirit and humour. She loved to hear about other people's lives from the prison of her bed.

Her house was always a haven to go into - full of warmth and colour and delightful objects. She had an artist's eye and delighted in anything beautiful, whether paintings, plants or pottery. She loved clothes too, a love which harked back to her dashing champagne days. She was a professional model in the 1930s when her first husband was a penniless champagne salesman. They could not afford the luxury meals which usually accompany that drink, so she used to say with a laugh that during those years her normal sustenance consisted of grand champagne with humble bread and butter.

She felt unloved by her mother, and had a lonely childhood, even spending a term in a nunnery. All this caused her to decide that animals were more reliable than grown-ups. But the family social life was quite a whirl, as her brother Rupert records with unpretentious charm in his biography of their mother, The Arms of Time (1979), which is dedicated to Deirdre.

Its pages are ornamented with some of the most glamorous names of the political, literary and artistic world, many of whom became lasting friends of Deirdre in later life, if only because they were more or less close relations - Asquiths, Cecil Day Lewis, Wyndham Lewis, Augustus John, Duncan Grant, the Keynes and Darwin families, Quentin and Vanessa Bell, Angelica Garnett, Ursula Mommens, Julian Trevelyan, Mary Fedden, Peggy Ashcroft, Paul Robeson, Diana and Duff Cooper.

A lovely link between Deirdre's literary and her artistic life, was her neighbour and great friend, the artist Trekkie Parsons. She had helped her husband at Chatto and Windus, which he founded, and Leonard and Virginia Woolf with the Hogarth Press, and used to have a "pillow conversation" by telephone with Deirdre every night, when they would discuss their experiences, recalling the frailties and quirks of their exceptional friends.

Rupert once told me that he had been a publisher for 35 years and had lost money in every year except one. I asked Deirdre how such an intelligent, much-loved brother could be so financially undemanding. With a laughing glint in her eye, she explained that Rupert had many wonderful friends and he said "yes" to all of them when they asked him to publish their books, even when he knew they couldn't write. He could not bear to hurt anyone's feelings, a trait which he shared with Deirdre.

Probably her first real job was as a model, then a less normal career for the well born than it has subsequently become. In that capacity, she worked for the best couturiers like Molyneux, and was photographed by rising stars such as Man Ray in Paris in 1929 and 1930. So she was able to add to her family's rich cultural life another strand more personal to her, that of fashion.

She was a voracious reader, and her living room was lined with thousands of books. When you pulled one out of its shelf and started to discuss it with her, she would often say as if it was a normal event "Oh, yes, he - the author - gave it to me when we were staying with him."

All her extraordinary personal qualities came into play when at the age of 65 and with typical courage, she started a new life after an unhappy end to her third marriage. She founded the Southover Gallery in Lewes. The fact that this was in her home made it intimate and memorable. And she proved to be unexpectedly good at business: she had started to develop her commercial abilities at the age of 11, when she sold her guinea pigs very successfully by advertising them in Exchange and Mart.

She loved parties and people as well as paintings, and the gallery became a big success. Helped by William Inman, who became her husband, she would sit at a desk in the middle of the gallery, delicately observing her visitors and deciding who might make a purchase, and who was there simply for the fun.

Sales were always good: there were sometimes as many as 130 red blobs on the picture frames during the run of a single exhibition. Always she helped struggling creative people. When she had to close the gallery in 1987, she showed work by 36 artists, all of them her friends, some indication of her amazing personal magnetism.

She exhibited Duncan Grant several times, always with a special sort of trepidation: she knew that he had difficulty in preventing his trousers falling down. Once, he was sensibly sitting in her armchair when an important visitor started talking to him, and a friend said: "Why don't you stand up, Duncan?" . . . "Better not" was Deirdre's decisive comment, with a meaningful look at his expansive waistline.

Deirdre Phyllis Hart-Davis, gallery owner: born London 5 July 1909; married 1930 Ronald Balfour (died 1941; two daughters), 1945 David Wolfers (marriage dissolved 1949), 1950 Anthony Bland (one daughter; marriage dissolved 1971), 1984 William Inman (died 1994); died Lewes, East Sussex 23 November 1998.

Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home