Bernard Law Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, circa 1942
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Overall: 33cm (13in) x 27cm (10.5in)
Pen, ink and watercolour on paper. Half-length portrait of the Eighth Army commander in battle dress and wearing his trademark twin badged beret of the Royal Tank Regiment that he adopted shortly before the Battle of El-Alamein in October 1942. Signed lower centre and captioned in pencil to lower margin. Image: 22 x 16cm. Framed and glazed.
Edward Seago’s easy manner and artistic talents won him many friends in high places. During the Second World War these included the future Field Marshals Auckinleck and Alexander, under whom he served in in 1940 and 1941. During the same period Montgomery also entered Seago’s orbit as the commander of V Corps, Southern Command, and commenced his long-running feud with Auchinleck.
On the outbreak of war in 1939, Edward Seago concealed the heart condition that dogged him since childhood to undertake military service. Commissioned into the Royal Engineers, he first served as a Camouflage Officer to the School of Military Engineering at Chatham, and later joined the British Expeditionary Force in France, where he executed a portrait of its commander Lord Gort, V.C., that was later sold to the War Artists’ Advisory Committee. After Dunkirk, he was appointed Camouflage Officer at V Corps, Southern Command, where he quickly won the confidence of its commander Sir Claude Auchinleck who was a keen amateur painter, and whose formal portrait he later executed for Wellington College. Auchinleck was soon promoted GOC-in-C Southern Command in July 1940 with his place at V Corps being filled by Montgomery. Montgomery wrote later: ‘In the 5th Corps I first served under Auchinleck... I cannot recall that we ever agreed on anything.’
Seago’s military duties at the time and in the face of a possible invasion included disguising some of the many landmarks in southern England. These included large features such as Chesil Beach and called for creative solutions. In an episode worthy of Dad’s Army a chalk sided railway cutting was concealed by spraying it with black ink. In late 1940 Auchinleck was succeeded by Lieutenant-General (later Field Marshal Earl) Alexander, who was also a keen amateur artist and a Seago fan. Montgomery was promoted in April 1941 and departed to take command of XII Corps with responsibility for the defence of Kent. During the course of the following summer, Alexander and Seago painted regularly together in the evenings and discussed art. After being promoted to commands in India and Burma in early 1942, and later in North Africa and Italy, Seago continued his work as a camoufleur in the UK. At the behest of Lieutenant-General Boy Browning, he produced the design of Bellerophon riding the winged horse Pegasus as the badge for the Airborne Forces. In 1944, following a solo exhibition at the Norwich Castle Museum, Seago was invited by Alexander to join him in Italy where he was given free rein as the Official Artist to the Italian Campaign.
Edward Seago, R.B.A., A.R.W.S., R.W.S. (1910-1974) developed his early talent under the informal instruction of a Royal Academician whom he approached without introduction. He was equally direct in seeking out early patronage in his native East Anglia. Working in the style of Munnings, he produced well received portraits and equestrian pictures for the gentry. After briefly attending Norwich Art School, he followed an inclination to record rural life by joining the circus and travelling throughout Britain and Europe. Intermittently, he returned from his bohemian life on the road to exhibit works in London to popular and critical acclaim. Post-war he painted numerous English landscapes, notably in Norfolk, where he settled, but also produced a large body of work abroad. Much of his work was Post-Impressionist in atmosphere. He exhibited in London, Glasgow, New York, Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, Oslo, and Brussels. An exhibition, at St James’s Palace in 1957, featured a series of paintings executed during the Duke of Edinburgh’s 1956 world tour aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia.