Bobby Jewell: on AA Presidents in Dressing Gowns. October 2015

Between transcripts of lectures by Frank Lloyd Wright, Auguste Perret & Alvar Aalto, innumerable photos of pantomimes and over 200 pages of adverts, the  Architectural Association 125th Anniversary : special commemorative publication’ has a special section dedicated to AA Presidents. Here, amongst sober depictions of other ‘hall of famers’ such as Robert Kerr, Jane Drew and Sir Howard Robertson is an image of a stern faced man wrapped in a rather beautiful fawn Jaeger dressing gown…


Sir William Orpen, 1912: Leonard Stokes, PRIBA. RIBA Collections.

Leonard Aloysius Scott Stokes was President of the AA from 1889-91, during which time he implemented structural re-organisation which paved the way to the opening of the AA Day School in 1901. This portrait, painted by the Irish artist Sir William Newenham Montague Orpen in 1912, on the occasion of Stokes’ RIBA presidency, is owned by the RIBA and currently hangs in their Study Room within the V&A. Another version of Stokes, also featuring the ubiquitous dressing gown, is owned by the Royal Academy…

RA Stokes

Sir William Orpen, 1911; Leonard Stokes, PRIBA. Photo: Copyright: Royal Academy/John Hammond.

Regrettably the AA did not traditionally commission portraits of its Presidents but unknowingly I have already featured an image of  Stokes in my previous Collections article on the Tufton Street Tatler – a hieroglyphic style cartoon depicted his conversion of the old Royal Architectural Museum on Tufton Street into premises better suited to the AA – Leonard ‘stoking’ the boiler of the school, sans dressing gown…TST-No3-Chronicles-1

Known as ‘Volcanic’ Stokes, due his eruptive temperament, Stokes designed several churches including Church of St Clare, Liverpool and Church of Our Lady, Help of Christians and St Aloysius, Folkestone. He was awarded the RIBA Gold Medal in 1919 and in 2009 a biography was published by Jan Ward.

William Orpen’s Painting is currently held by the RIBA Collections – for more info please see: