Portrait of Loelia, Duchess of Westminster William Acton (1906-1945)

13 October 2020

In memory of Peter Boughton, the Grosvenor Museum’s Keeper of Art who passed away last year, the Grosvenor Museum Society has purchased an unusual and beautiful oil on canvas portrait of Loelia, 2nd Duchess of Westminster by artist William Acton. 

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “This oil painting was Peter’s last proposed acquisition and following his death, the Grosvenor Museum Society arranged a fundraiser in his memory to purchase it. I’m pleased to say they were able to pay the full amount for the portrait and we are very grateful to them indeed. The portrait is now hanging in the Art Gallery at the Grosvenor Museum for visitors to enjoy.”  

The unusual surrealist portrait of Loelia, 2nd Duchess of Westminster, was first exhibited in ‘The Storm Clouds of War’ exhibition in 1937.
Born Loelia Mary Ponsonby on 6 February 1902, her father was assistant private secretary to Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and King George V, and her upbringing in various royal palaces was rigid and stifling. She escaped this world into the ‘Bright Young Things’ set where she met ‘Bendor’ 2nd Duke of Westminster. Their marriage was not a success and Loelia caused a stir when she divorced the Duke and lived in relative poverty, working as a columnist for a lady’s magazine. She died on 1 November 1993, aged 91.

Artist William Hamilton Mitchell Acton was born in 1906, the son of Arthur Acton, an art collector and dealer, and Hortense Lenore Mitchell, a banking heiress. The painter, Harold Acton, was his older brother. After college the Acton brothers were part of a circle of ‘Bright Young Things’ including Diana Mitford, John Betjeman, Evelyn Waugh, Randolph Churchill and Diana Churchill. William Acton sketched many of these friends. Not long after being demobilised from the Pioneer Corps during World War II, William Acton died on 31 August 1945 after a short illness and is buried with his family at Cimitero degli Allori.

The Grosvenor Museum is open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10.30 to 1pm and 2pm to 4.30pm. To ensure the safety of visitors and staff pre-booking is available at all sites. To pre-book a visiting slot, call the museum on: 01244 972197 during opening times and visit the website for further details.

Portrait of Loelia, Duchess of Westminster

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