John Singer Sargent, Katharine Frances Horner (Mrs Raymond Asquith) (1885–1976)

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All Rights Reserved)


Country House
Mells Manor
Katharine Frances Horner (Mrs Raymond Asquith) (1885–1976)
Signed and dated lower right: ‘John S. Sargent/ July 20th 1907’
Medium and support
Charcoal on paper
Overall height: 62.3 cm, Overall width: 47 cm
John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
Catalogue Number


Katharine Frances Horner (1885–1976) was the younger daughter of Sir John Francis Fortescue Horner (1842–1927) and his wife, Lady Frances Horner (née Graham; 1854–1940). She was brought up in a cultivated and artistic environment. While her grandfather, William Graham, had been one of the great collectors of Pre-Raphaelite art, her mother was a member of the ‘Souls’, a small, loose-knit but elite group of aristocrats aspiring to high ideals of mind and spirit. Through her mother, Katharine knew many of the leading painters of that school as well as more progressive artists like the celebrated portraitist John Singer Sargent, who had already visited Mells to paint two portraits of Katharine’s elder sister, Cicely Horner (1883–1972).1 As Frances Horner reported to Edward Burne-Jones in 1896, following a visit to Mells by Sargent: ‘I liked Mr Sargent, he was very nice & simple, & he was very shy, & not the least an American & he wasn’t very like an artist either!’2 

By 1905, Sargent had all but retired from society portraiture with the exception of a few oil portraits of his closest friends such as the American novelist Henry James. However, because of high demand for his work, Sargent eventually agreed to complete charcoal sketches in some exceptional cases, including this one of Katharine. It was made shortly before her marriage on 25 July 1907 at St Margaret’s, Westminster, to Raymond Herbert Asquith, whom she had first met at Mells in the summer of 1901. Katharine and Raymond had two daughters, Helen and Perdita, and a son, Julian, who succeeded his grandfather, Herbert Asquith, as the 2nd Earl of Oxford and Asquith. The present drawing was retained by Katharine in her various houses, and passed at her death to her daughter, Lady Helen Asquith. It came eventually to Mells in 2000 following the death of Lady Helen.

by Devon Cox


David McKibbin, Sargent's Boston, Boston, Mass. : Museum of Fine Art, 1956, p. 82


  1. Richard Ormond, John Singer Sargent. The Complete Paintings: Portraits of the 1890s, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003, nos 371, 372, pp. 161–3.

  2. Frances Horner to Edward Burne-Jones, 20 May 1896, in Caroline Dakers, ‘Culture and the Country House 1880–1940: with Selective Catalogues’, MA thesis, Royal College of Art, London, 1988, p. 406.


Related catalogue items from Mells Manor

  • Castle Howard Mells Manor

    A Young Woman, traditionally called Anne Poole, Lady Horner

    circle of Herman Verelst, c.1683–90

  • Castle Howard Mells Manor

    The Visitation

    Domenico Beccafumi

  • Castle Howard Mells Manor

    The Honorable Sir Archibald Seton, 13th Baron Touch and Tullibody (1758–1818)

    John Thomas Seton, ? early 1780s