Edmond Brock was born in London in 1882, the youngest son of the sculptor Sir Thomas Brock (1847–1922). He was educated at Bedford School and showed early promise as a portrait painter. In 1903, while still only 20, he exhibited portraits of his father’s friends, Viscount Esher and Sir Aston Webb at the Royal Academy. He was a regular exhibitor at the Academy until 1938, showing over 50 portraits.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Edmond’s most faithful patron was Lady Londonderry, a society hostess who entertained lavishly at Mount Stewart, her stately home in Northern Ireland, and at Londonderry House in Park Lane. She formed an exclusive club called ‘The Ark’ for her closest friends, each member having a nickname. Lady Londonderry’s was Circe, the enchantress in Homer’s Odyssey who bewitched Odysseus. In 1925 Edmond painted an elegant group portrait of Lady Londonderry and her three youngest daughters, entitled ‘Circe and the Sirens’.
Edmond painted several portraits of the youngest daughter Mairi and exhibited one of these at the Royal Academy in 1925. He also painted the yacht ‘Uladh’ (Irish for Ulster), a view of Loch Choire (Scotland) and studies of family pets (a Labrador dog and a horse). All these paintings are in the National Trust Collection at Mount Stewart.
In 1928 he illustrated a children’s book The Magic Inkpot by Lady Londonderry, and it is likely that her patronage extended even further. She was well-known for her close relationship with Ramsay MacDonald, the Prime Minister, and it seems likely that she was responsible for Edmond’s commission to paint his portrait, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1934.
Lord and Lady Londonderry entertained the Duke and Duchess of York at Londonderry House, and it is possible that this also led to Edmond being commissioned to paint portraits of the Duchess of York’s daughters Elizabeth and Margaret Rose (exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1932 and 1935), as well as the group portrait Her Royal Highness the Duchess of York and Her Children Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose. This was exhibited in 1936 – the year the Duke of York unexpectedly became King George VI and the Duchess became Queen.
Edmond did not exhibit after 1938 and died in 1952 at the age of 70. He was unmarried.
Edmond was christened ‘Charles Edmond’; and by an unfortunate coincidence another (unrelated) Brock, Charles Edmund Brock, born 1870 in Cambridge, was also a portrait painter, exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1897–1899.
To have two artists exhibiting at the Academy with virtually identical names was clearly undesirable, so an amicable solution was reached. The Cambridge Brock agreed to use the name ‘Charles’ and drop ‘Edmund’, while the London Brock would use ‘Edmond’ and omit ‘Charles’. Despite this, some confusion continued.
Art UK has 15 paintings by Edmond, of which the majority are in the National Trust’s Mount Stewart collection. These were originally attributed to Charles Edmund Brock, until it was pointed out that one of them had been exhibited by Edmond at the Royal Academy in 1925. Thanks to Art UK for making this reattribution possible.
John Sankey, Former Secretary General, London Art Dealers