Queer Places:
94 Cheyne Walk, London
Brookwood Cemetery Brookwood, Woking Borough, Surrey, England

Violet Sargent Ormond (February 9, 1870 - March 26, 1955) was an artist's model. She was the subject of a number of paintings by her brother John Singer Sargent, the best known probably being the 1888 "Morning Walk". Raised in Florence by her expatriate American parents, her image was rendered by her brother numerous times from early childhood on. Violet studied at Florence's Accademia di Belle Arti and in 1889 joined John on a voyage to New York, the trip being undertaken at the instigation of Mrs. Sargent who disapproved of Violet's attachment to Britisher Francis Ormond and wished her to be introduced to some American men; the ruse failed, as Violet married Ormond and settled in England where she raised her eventual six children (several of whom, most notably Rose Marie, were painted by their uncle) and lived out her long life. Most of the paintings of Violet reside in private collections but have been exhibited in galleries the world over. Of the three siblings (John, Emily and Violet), Violet was the only one to marry. Other two siblings, both named Mary, died young.

In 1891 the Sargents’ younger sister, Violet, married Francis Ormond, who, after fathering six children (Marguerite Ormond (b. 1892), Rose Marie Ormond Michel (1893-1918), Jean Louis Ormond (1894-1986), Guillaume Francis Ormond (1896-1971), Reine Violet Ormond Pitman (1897-1971), Henri Eric Conrad Ormond (1898-1979)), abandoned his family to indulge his homosexual proclivity in foreign parts. Writing of her sister, Emily Sargent told Vernon Lee, “She says she has long since accepted the fact that he is abnormal, & she thinks he has too, now. The pity is that he has it in his power to cloud so many lives!” Fearing his sister’s engagement to Ormond, Sargent himself was openly opposed to his sister’s marriage; when he gave his reasons to a family friend, they sounded “like the worry of a concerned relative who knows, from male-club gossip, some quite discreditable facts about the impending husband.”

Violet Sargent by John Singer Sargent -- American painter c.1883 Private collection Watercolor on paper

A Morning Walk. Mrs. Violet Ormond (1870-1955), Artist's Sister. John Singer Sargent

A Portrait of Violet John Singer Sargent -- American painter 1889 Private collection Oil on canvas

Rose-Marie Ormond (later Madame Robert André-Michel 1893-1918) John Singer Sargent

When Henry James died in London, in 1916, coming to help his relatives with arrangement was the family of John Singer Sargent—especially his two sisters, Emily and Violet (now Madame Ormond)—who lived just doors away from James’s flat at 21 Carlyle Mansions. Emily, who resided at #10, had been the writer’s helpful neighbor ever since he signed the lease for his perch in Chelsea in 1912, and she frequently asked him to join her (and often her brother) for tea or an evening’s repast. When he gladly accepted one these invites in 1914, James couldn’t help ejaculating, “it seems to me that at this rate it’s you and John who give all my dinners!” The author’s amanuensis, Theodora Bosanquet, noted in her diary that the two sisters came to stay with James the night after he collapsed from his second stroke, and they were seldom away from his residence in the weeks to come. All three Sargents sat with Mrs. William James (Henry James's sister-in-law) and her daughter Peggy in the front pew at his funeral. When that service was ended, Emily and Violet accompanied the Jameses to the outlying crematorium at Golders Green (at the farthest fringe of Hampstead Heath), where, following the instructions in his last will and testament, Henry James’s body was to be reduced to ashes.

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