The London Times May 5, 1914  (Frontpage)

Reporting the attack on the portrait, then on display at the Royal Academy, by the suffragette Mary Wood

Henry James

"Day May 5, 1914

Acadamy Outrage

Sargent Portrait of Henry James Damaged

A Woman In Custody

The militant suffragists added yesterday to their long list of outrages by a violent attack on Mr. Sargent's portrait of Mr. Henry James at the Royal Academy. The attack, as in the case of that upon the "Rokeby" Venus at the National Gallery, was made with a meat chopper. the assailant being an elderly woman of distinctly peaceable appearance. The picture, which was covered by glass, was badly cut in three separate places, on the left side of the head, on the right side of the mouth, and below the right shoulder. The cut were of a jagged character and the paint has been stripped from the canvas in places.

Story of the Outrage

Yesterday being the opening day of the Academy, the rooms and galleries were crowded with visitors. The outrage occurred about 1.25pm. The picture was hanging in Room III. According to the accounts of witnesses the first indication of the attack was the sound of breaking glass. For a moment those in the neighbourhood of the picture were too surprised to take action and in that moment a second blow and then a third were struck by the woman who made not the slightest pause in her wok of destruction.

Immediately a rush was made and, after a slight struggle, she was secured, several ladies assisting. The noise attracted visitors from other rooms, who showed their resentment of the outrage so vehemently that the police, who in a brief interval had taken the suffragist in charge, had to hurry her from the gallery. Meanwhile, a man who attempted to defend her and who seemed to the crowd to be a sympathizer was roughly handled. His spectacles were broken over his nose (he has since preferred a claim for a new pair), and he was driven out of the building.

The scuffle lasted for several minutes and naturally aroused great excitement amongst the visitors. As soon as the prisoner had bee removed the room was cleared and the picture taken from its place on the wall. Thereafter the Council of the Academy was hastily summoned. Mr. Sargent was sent for and came down to the Academy.

Extent of the Damage

The picture is very severely damaged, but it is hoped that it may be possible to restore it. Mr. Lamb, the secretary of the Academy, told a representative of The Times that the picture was greatly admired by the King on Sunday during his informal visit. He could not say at at present what would be done. Pictures were not insured and hung at the artist's or the owner's risk. "I think" he added, 'that in future artists will require to paint their pictures on armour plate."

The suffragist, Mrs Mary Wood, was bought before Mr. Denman at Marlborough-street Police Court later in the afternoon and charged with wilfully damaging the picture. She is an old woman with white hair and wore a loose purple overcloak, in the ample folds of which a much larger implement than the chopper which was produced in Court, could have been hidden. Her behaviour throughout the proceedings was quiet,

Mr Maskett prosecuted.

Mr Stuart Boyd, an artist, who was present at the time of the outrage described how he heard the smash and saw the prisoner deliver her second and third blows. He and another man at once restrained her.

On being asked if she had any question to put Mrs Wood declared in a loud voice, "No, thank you. There is really no good to go on. I acknowledge that I did it - as a protest." The prisoner later repeated this statement.

Another artist, an attendant from the Academy, and Police-constable Rabbetts, who made the arrest, then gave evidence. The constable said that in the hall the woman stated, "If they only gave women the vote this would never have happened,' and added,

"What about Sir Edward Carson?"

The prisoner (interrupting), - And Mr. Bonar Law, Mr. Walter Lamb, secretary of the Royal Academy. said that the picture measured 3ft by 2ft., and so far as the Academy was concerned was the property of Mr. Sargent. He valued it at about £700. He thought that it could be repaired. It was difficult to assess the damage, but he put it between £100 and £200.

The prisoner was understood to say that if the picture had been painted by a woman its value would have been less than £700. She was committed for trial at the London Sessions.

"This Brave Woman."

Reference was made to the outrage at the weekly meeting of Women's Social and Political Union at Knightsbridge Hall, when a statement from Mrs Wood, described as "this brave woman." was read.

The letter opened with the following words:-
"I have tried to destry a valuable picture because I wish to show the public that they have no security for their property nor their art treasures until women are given political freedom."

The statement was recieved with applause, and names were called for for a deputation which is to be sent to the KIng. Lady Isabel Margresson declared that suffragists did not approve of damaging works of art, but were "driven to these straits".

(The Times article quoted from the National Portrait Gallery)

Sir Edward Carson (1854-1935), 1st Lord Carson of Duncairn, Irish Unionist leader, was staunchly against the independence movement for Ireland called the "Home Rule" movement. In 1886, 1893, and again in 1912, Home Rule bills went before Parliament in London. Finally in May of 1914 the bill passed on its third reading by the House of Commons. Lord Carson represented the strongest opposition to the movement of Northern Ireland called the "Ulster Unionists" and they claimed they had an 80,000 man irregular army which would fight a civil war if passed.

The Home Rule bill was never implemented due to the outbreak of World War 1 later that summer.

Updated 7/14/2003