Doris was born
at Rosneath, Argyll, Scotland on 31 July 1898, daughter of Victor Zinkeisen
a timber merchant and amateur artist, and his wife Clara née Bolton-Charles
Doris's younger sister was Anna Zinkeisen. In 1909 the family moved to Pinner,
near Harrow and she studied at Harrow School of Art and in 1917 won a
scholarship to the Royal Academy Schools, where she studied with her sister.
painting, a portrait of her sister Anna, was shown at the Royal Academy in 1918
painted by Doris when she was only aged 16. Doris and her sister shared a
studio in London in the 1920's and 30's and together they did the murals for
the liner Queen Mary and she also worked widely in other media as an
illustrator and commercial artist including producing advertising posters for
several British railway companies, the London Underground and murals for the
RMS Queen Elizabeth, winning bronze, silver and gold medals at the Paris Salon.
Her realist style made her popular as a portraitist and she became a well-known
society painter, painting society portraiture, equestrian portraiture and
scenes from the parks of London and Paris reflecting the lifestyle of the upper
class at that time. Early on she met the impresario Nigel Playfair (1874-1934),
which led to a lifelong association with the theatre and she worked with
Charles Blake Cochran (1872-1951) and painted the portraits of many notable
actresses including Anna Neagle and Evelyn Laye. Doris worked at the 'Old Vic'
with Laurence Olivier and created his make-up for the film 'Richard III' and
wrote her bible 'Designing for the Stage'.
stage and costume designer, painter, commercial artist and writer and was also
a fine horsewoman, winning the Moscow Cup for the Supreme Hack Championship at
the International Horse Show in 1934, and her pictures often feature horses and
carriages in period settings. They are noted for their clean draughtsmanship
and unique palette.
At the end of
the Second World War, she was the first artist to enter the infamous Belsen
Concentration Camp and two of her painting are in the Imperial War Museum.
continued to work in London as a theatrical designer and held occasional
exhibitions of her paintings, also designing the cover of a special edition of
'Everybody's Magazine' to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in
1953 and the following year designed, amongst others, the scenery and costumes
for Noël Coward's musical, 'After the Ball'.
She married at
Marylebone, London in 1927, Edward Grahame Johnstone, a naval officer, and had
twin daughters born in 1928, Anne and Janet, who also became artists and a son,
Murray. Edward Grahame Johnstone died in
1946 and Doris's twin girls then lived with their mother moving with her to
Badingham, Suffolk in 1966 where she died on 3 January 1991, aged 92.
Kelleway wrote a book about the sisters called 'Highly Desirable: The Zinkeisen Sisters and Their Legacy'