Dorothy Kay (1886 - 1964)
‘Three mirrors’, 1959



oil on board, 100 x 53.5cm

signed bottom left ‘Dorothy Kay’

According to the artist’s letters, the first idea for this subject had been ‘a bunch of things like music stands! all spindly lines! My own mirrors on stands started the idea – Could be very amusing – with reflections of mirrors!! Lots of them, all views … it’s really following up the idea that Art is anything looked at in a special way!!’ Kay started painting the subject in mid-September 1959 and the work was completed within about a month. Her biographer carefully describes the subjects of the reflections: ‘In the … left-hand mirror reflects in reverse the portrait of Cookie: Annie Mavata, on the frame of which is pinned a reproduction of Brian Kneale’s Men and Rooks. Below, is the etching press, its blankets thrown back over the roller against which is propped a sheet of broken glass and a pencil drawing given to Dorothy by “Billy” Orpen (Sir William), of his brother Richard. In the second mirror a reverse reflection is of the back of the inner studio door on which hangs a white overall of Dorothy’s, beside which is part of a picture frame with a cord dangling from it … [T]he third mirror reflects in reverse … the poster of the Rococo Exhibition that Dorothy had seen in London in 1954.’

Kay exhibited Three mirrors at the 43rd exhibition of the Eastern Province Society of Arts and Crafts in Port Elizabeth in 1960 where it was priced at 80gns. See M Reynolds, Everything you do is a portrait of yourself: Dorothy Kay – a biography, Cape Town, 1989, pp363–4, illustrated; also illustrated in M Reynolds (ed), The Elvery family: a memoir, Cape Town, 1991, p183.


© 2005 Michael Stevenson. All rights reserved.