Photographed this fine bronze – probably in contravention of the rules – when I last visited Hull.
Got home and wondered who she was. Tried the net. So easy! Born in London in 1912, the daughter of a ships captain, and brought up in Liverpool where she became a student at Liverpool College of Art and won a scholarship to the Royal Academy. There she met Jacob Epstein, and spent two years in his studios. Though he was married they had a boy – Jackie – who she left with Jacob and his wife when she went to Paris.
There she had a successful first show of her paintings in 1934, and was painted by Picasso.
She visited Spain in the Civil War with her first husband, Sefton Delmer foriegn correspondent with the Daily Express. Subsequntly became involved with Alberto Giacometti.
She returned to UK during the war and worked with the Black Propaganda group which was set up by husband Sefton to promulgate pornographic propaganda to enemy troops, suggesting what might be happening to their wives and girls back home in Germany. Ultimately this rather ugly line of work led to Isabel and Sefton splitting up, just before the end of the war.
She subsequently met and developed friendships with Francis Bacon, Ian Fleming, Dylan Thomas, Jean Paul Satre and Eduado Paolozzi.
In 1947 she met and married the composer Constant Lambert in France and returned to England where she mixed with the Sitwells, Lucien Freud, Margot Fonteyn and composer Alan Rawsthorne. As well as painting (exhibitions at the ICA and British Council) she became designer for the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden and Sadlers Wells.
Her second husband died in 1951 and Isabel returned to Paris, soon returning with Alan Rawsthorne to settle in Essex, where they lived until his death in 1971. Isabel continued to live in the Essex cottage in all for 40 years, until her death in 1992. Both are buried in Thaxted churchyard. Her later paintings reflect her growing interest in environmental issues, inspired by the work of Rachel Carson, her best known being a series called Migrations, painted in the 1970s.
Wow – what a life.