I’m Richard Ormond, a great-nephew of the artist. I’ve spent most of my career in museums, latterly as director of the National Maritime Museum, London, Greenwich, London. And I grew up in a house surrounded by Sargents so I was always aware of the artist almost from a very young age.
Turning to Reading: the beautiful young girl leaning back and looking out rather archly at us is the artist’s niece, Rose-Marie Ormond, who was a favorite model of his. In fact, she’s the inspiration for many of these Simplon pictures.
She was very beautiful. She also had a rather remarkable character. She was very selfless in the sense that she thought more about other people than herself.
And she had a rather tragic history, because she was married in 1913 to a brilliant young French art historian, a Medievalist called Robert Andre-Michel, who was killed in the opening offensives of World War I. And then she, herself, having done war work, was killed in 1918 in Saint-Gervais, the French church, the Paris church, which was hit by German shells, and about 80 or 90 people lost their lives, and she was one of them.