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Stephen James Napier Tennant
(April 21, 1906 - August 27, 1987) U. K.

Stephen Tennant

Artist, aesthete


Eccentric society figure, born in Wilsford Manor, Stephen was the youngest of four sons born to Edward Tennant, First Baron Glenconnor and Pamela (born Wyndham). In 1906 she had created Wilsford Manor and it was here that Stephen was born. It was a house that he became totally attached to. His brother Edward was killed in World War One.

Stephen TennantStephen was unsuited to a formal school education and was therefore educated at home. His mother encouraged his artistic side. He later illustrated her books "The Vein in the Marble" 1925 and "White Wallet" 1928.

In 1922 he went to Slade School of Fine Art where he met Rex Whistler and Cecil Beaton. It was Cecil Beaton (a life long friend) who photographed him in his flat - which he had decorated with aluminium foil - wearing a pin stripe suit and his brother's leather flying jacket.

He became known as one of the "bright young people" and gossip columnists would write about his appearances at society parties. "The honourable Stephen Tennant arrived ... wearing a football jersey and earrings".

Stephen TennantIn 1927 he met Siegfried Sassoon and they began a passionate relationship. 1928 his mother died and he inherited Wilsford Manor. He threw extravagant parties, often in costume.

By 1932 Stephen had grown tired of Siegfried's attentions and they split up and he began travelling.

He sketched sailors in Marseilles for a book that he was trying to write. During the Second World War Wilsford was taken over as a nursing home and Stephen lived in a flat in Bournemouth. He became very depressed and had electroconvulsive treatment which was a disaster.

After the War he returned home and began redecorating the house and planted palm trees in the gardens.

He was visited by anyone who was anyone - Christopher Isherwood, Kenneth Anger, and David Hockney. Truman Capote complained that there were candied violets in his soup.

After his death the contents of Wilsford Manor were auctioned. A large archive of his letters, scrapbooks, personal ephemera and artworks is held in The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History.


Source: entry kindly sent by Raymond Port

Biography: Philip Hoare, Serious pleasures, The life of Stephen Tennant

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