Birmingham-born Edward Ridley made his debut at the Royal Academy with Homeward, a slightly sentimental picture of two country-mouse children heading home by way of an apple orchard; the reviews were muted. But as Ridley moved away from bucolic idylls and focused more on sketching and design, he enjoyed a successful career in his hometown, where he set up the Birmingham School of Dress Design in 1924. In an interview with the Evening Despatch, Ridley explained that, "Anyone who wishes can learn to draw ... I emphasize the word 'wishes' because the desire to draw must be there in the first place. Painting is different, however. A sense of colour cannot be taught" (3 Feb 1933, p 8).
Here, Ridley merely outlines the stylish frill of the collar, fixating instead on the sitter's gaze, with deep pools of concentrated red chalk.