Biography of Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen 1859-1899

Frederick Leighton Biography. Around 1800. Frederick Leighton. "Miss Dene". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen.

In Jul 1856 [her father] Abraham Pullen (age 22) and [her mother] Sarah Eagle (age 23) were married.

In 1859 Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen was born to Abraham Pullen (age 25) and Sarah Eagle (age 26).

Frederick Leighton Biography. 1862. Frederick Leighton (age 31). "Bianca". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 3).

In or before 1879 [her mother] Sarah Eagle (age 46) died. See Leighton Biography.

Frederick Leighton Biography. One day, somewhere in the winter of 1879, on opening a gate which leads from our garden to the Holland Park Studios, I saw standing at one of the studio doors a figure which I described to Leighton as a "vision of beauty (age 20)" - a young girl with a lovely white face, dressed in deepest black, evidently a model. Needless to say, Leighton, ever eager to procure good models, obtained her name from the artist to whom she was sitting when I first saw her, and engaged her as a model for the head. Shortly after she began to sit to Leighton, he wrote to me saying the young girl was in sad circumstances, and he would be very glad if I could help her by making some studies from her. I agreed, and he arranged with her to give me sittings. She told me that she had recently lost her mother, her father had deserted his family of five girls and two boys, and she with her elder brother were left to support them. She was endeavouring to act the part of mother to her younger sisters and brother. As Leighton and I grew to know her better we found her very intelligent and conscientious in acting this part, and she enlisted our sympathies entirely. She confided to me, while sitting one day, that she longed greatly to find something to do more interesting and remunerative than spending her days as a model. She thought she could act. I consulted Leighton. His first exclamation was, "Impossible! with that voice! How could she go on the stage?" I thought the voice, which had a singularly unpleasant Cockney twang in it, might be trained, as I had observed how very eager she was to learn to speak in a more educated manner, quite realising her own shortcomings. Leighton came round to my opinion; and, once having made up his mind that she was bent on educating herself for the stage, showed himself as ever the most unselfish and untiring befriender. Meanwhile four of these beautiful children became useful to him as models. From the second daughter [[her sister] Edith Ellen Pullen (age 13)], who afterwards married an artist (age 22), Leighton painted "Memories," reproduced here; from the third, Hetty (age 11), he painted "Simœtha the Sorceress" and "Farewell"; but it was the youngest, [her sister] Lina (age 6), quite a small child, who delighted him most, and who had a rare, refined charm which must have captivated any child-lover. She took the place of little Connie Gilchrist (age 13) of the "Cleobouline," the "Music Lesson," and other of the earlier paintings, in the later pictures. She sat for "Sister's Kiss," "The Light of the Harem," "Letty," the sleeping group in "Cymon and Iphigenia," "Kittens," in the friezes "The Dance" and "Music," and "A little girl with golden hair and pale blue eyes" -

"Yellow and pale as ripened corn

Which Autumn's kiss frees—grain from sheath

Such was her hair, while her eyes beneath,

Showed Spring's faint violets freshly born."

Robert Browning.

VVHxNnGcalso the child (age 20) in "Captive Andromache." Of the sister-mother of this little family, beautiful as she was, Leighton declared he never could paint a successful likeness, notwithstanding his attempts in "Viola,"[75] "Bianca," "Serenely wandering in a trance of sober thought," and "Miss Dene." Her very beautiful throat, however, was reproduced worthily in many of his subject-pictures, and the true dramatic instinct she undoubtedly possessed enabled her to be of help in such pictures as "Antigone," "Return of Persephone," and the last picture, the passionate "Clytie." But however useful she proved as a model, Leighton never for a moment thought of his own interests before the serious welfare of the young girl's life. He realised that if she was to make a successful actress, it involved serious and concentrated study. One morning I received the following note:—

Dear Mrs. Barrington,—Miss Pullen (age 20) will be very happy to sit to you on Monday, and will talk over the rest when you meet. You are very kind about it all, as is, indeed, your wont.

P.S.—You see my harassed old head does sometimes remember what I promise.

Note 75. As portraits, the two heads Watts painted from "Dorothy Dene (age 20)" were superior to those Leighton painted.

1880. Frederick Leighton (age 49). "Crenaia, the Nymph of the Dargle". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 21).

Frederick Leighton Biography. Around 1882. Frederick Leighton (age 51). "Antigone". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 23).

Frederick Leighton Biography. Around 1882. Frederick Leighton (age 51). "Return of Persephone". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 23).

Frederick Leighton Biography. 1884. Frederick Leighton (age 53). "Cymon and Iphigenia". Models sisters Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 25) and [her sister] Isabella Helena "Lena" Pullen (age 11).

Frederick Leighton Biography. Around 1886. Frederick Leighton (age 55). "Clytie". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 27).

Around 1889. Frederick Leighton (age 58). "Greek Girls Playing Ball". Model left Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 30).

Around 1890. Frederick Leighton (age 59). "The Bath of Psyche". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 31).

Psyche: Psyche is the Greek goddess of the soul. She was born a mortal woman, with beauty that rivaled Aphrodite.

Frederick Leighton Biography. Around 1890. Frederick Leighton (age 59). "The Bath of Psyche". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 31).

Around 1891. Frederick Leighton (age 60). "Solitude". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 32).

Around 1891. Frederick Leighton (age 60). "The Vestal". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 32).

Around 1891. Frederick Leighton (age 60). "The Return of Persephone". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 32).

Around 1891. Frederick Leighton (age 60). "Perseus and Andromeda". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 32).

Frederick Leighton Biography. 1895. Frederick Leighton (age 64). "Flaming June". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 36).

Frederick Leighton Biography. 1895. Frederick Leighton (age 64). Study for "Flaming June". Model Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 36).

On 25 Jan 1896 Frederick Leighton (age 65) died. Baron Leighton of Stretton in Shropshire and Baronet Leighton of Holland Park Road in St Mary Abbots in Kensington in Middlesex extinct. He left Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 37) £5,000, plus another £5,000 in trust for herself and her sisters; the largest bequest he made.

On 27 Dec 1899 Ada Alice "Dorothy Dene" Pullen (age 40) died. She was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery.

Frederick Leighton Biography. We succeeded in making the little girl work exclusively at her acting, and Leighton, Watts, and I frequently visited the school where she was being trained under Mrs. Glyn, to hear her and her fellow-students perform the pieces they had studied. Eventually she appeared in London and in the provinces, and quickly communicated all her successes and failures to Leighton and to me. Constant notes passed between us as we each received news from our young protégée, or when we thought some fresh step might be taken for her advantage. For instance, one of these notes runs as follows:—

Dear Mrs. Barrington,—It has occurred to me that I perhaps seemed this morning what I certainly did not mean to seem, churlish in regard to that letter from Irving.[77] If Miss Pullen is now ripe for him to hear her—this is the most important point (for to go to him too soon would be the most unwise thing possible in view of her getting a good engagement)—and if, having declined a letter on a previous occasion, she has any unnecessary scruple about now asking for one, it will be quite enough for you to tell me from her that she wishes for one, and I will at once write it. Kemp will always be able to tell you where to get at me. I can write as easily from Vienna or Constantinople as from here.

Note 77. Among Leighton's correspondence is the following interesting letter from Irving, who was an ardent admirer of Leighton's, and was among the first to join the committee formed to preserve his house for the public.

15a Grafton Street, Bond Street, W.,

January 1, 1889.

Dear Sir Frederic,—I am glad that you are coming to "Macbeth," and I wish you had been with us on Saturday.

The seats you wish for I enclose, though I should ever look upon it as a great privilege to welcome you myself.

Ellen Terry's performance is remarkable, and perfectly delightful after the soulless and insipid imitations of Sarah Siddons to which we have been accustomed.

You will find the cobwebs of half a century brushed away.

There is an amusing article in to-day's Standard, which overshoots the mark, and clearly shows how offensive it is to some minds to be earnest and conscientious in one's work. But I need not point this out to you.—Remaining, my dear Sir Frederic, yours sincerely,

H. Irving.