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Fashion Illustration

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1913-1918 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Mackennal, Henrietta, born 1885 - died 1959 (illustrator)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pencil, ink, wash and bodycolour on presentation board

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Emma Hicks

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case FD, shelf 1, box A

Henrietta ‘Rita’ Mackennal (1885–1959) was a fashion writer and illustrator. Born in Paris, she was the daughter of the Australian sculptor Bertram Mackennal (1863–1931) and fellow artist Agnes Spooner. As a child Rita Mackennal was surrounded by her parent’s artistic circle of friends and often visited Sara Bernhardt, the French actress, who was a particularly close friend of the family. Bernhardt clearly had a great affection for the young Mackennal as in 1897 she commissioned Walter Spindler (1878–1940) to paint her portrait.

Before marrying in 1913 she worked as a fashion illustrator for Vogue, the Daily Express, and other London newspapers. She continued to work in the fashion industry for several years until her children were born in 1918 and 1923. During the First World War, Mackennal wrote and illustrated a weekly article for the Mirror entitled ‘Fashion Gossip from London’. The articles are written as letters from the London-based Rita to Betty – presumably an imagined friend living in out of town – and provide a fascinating and witty account of fashion in wartime London.

Physical description

Fashion in black ink and white bodycolour illustration depicting a head and shoulders portrait of a woman in side profile. The woman is wearing a turban hat with two large pom poms.

On the reverse is an illustration depicting a full-length image of a woman. The woman is wearing an outfit consisting of a dress tied at the waist with fur trimmed cuffs, a cape trimmed with fur trim on the collar and hem and a wide-brimmed feathered hat. She is also holding a lorgnette (pair of spectacles with a handle). Pencil underdrawing is visible beneath the black ink.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1913-1918 (made)


Mackennal, Henrietta, born 1885 - died 1959 (illustrator)

Materials and Techniques

Pencil, ink, wash and bodycolour on presentation board


Height: 32.7 cm, Width: 21.4 cm

Descriptive line

Fashion illustration by Henrietta 'Rita' Mackennal, pencil, black ink, wash and bodycolour on presentation board, London, about 1913-1918


Ink; Wash; Pencil; Board; Bodycolour



Subjects depicted

Dress; Hat; Lorgnette; Cape


Fashion; Designs; Illustration


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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