Dorothy Dene

Dorothy Dene

Birth
London, City of London, Greater London, England
Death 27 Dec 1899 (aged 39–40)
London, City of London, Greater London, England
Burial Kensal Green, London Borough of Brent, Greater London, England
Memorial ID 11177305 · View Source
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Model and Actress. Real name Ada Alice Pullen. She was the probable inspiration for the character Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw's play "Pygmalion" (1912), and its later musical adaptation, "My Fair Lady" (1956). Dene was born in London. Her father abandoned the family, and when her mother died in 1881 she was left with three younger sisters to support. At that time most working-class women in her position were forced into prostitution to survive. Fortunately for Dene, she met Frederick Leighton (later Lord Leighton), one of the most famous English painters of the era. Nearly 30 years her senior, Leighton was captivated by Dene's beauty. She became his favorite model and muse, appearing in many of his celebrated late canvases, including "The Bath of Psyche" and "Flaming June." Taking on the roles of both lover and father figure, Leighton educated her and introduced her to fashionable society. When she expressed a desire to become an actress, he came up with her stage name and did what he could to further her career. George Bernard Shaw knew Leighton and Dene and their unconventional relationship almost certainly was the basis for "Pygmalion," with Leighton the model for the fictional Professor Henry Higgins. Dene appeared on the London stage for ten years, playing second leads and supporting roles in works by Shakespeare, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and Oscar Wilde, but stardom eluded her and she retired in 1894. It is through Leighton's idealized paintings of her that she remains one of the most recognizable figures in Victorian art. When Leighton died in 1896 he left Dene a considerable amount of money, which she did not live to enjoy; she died at 40 after a long illness three years later. She never married.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 15 Jun 2005
  • Find a Grave Memorial 11177305
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Dorothy Dene (1859–27 Dec 1899), Find a Grave Memorial no. 11177305, citing Kensal Green Cemetery, Kensal Green, London Borough of Brent, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .