Women artists in St John's Wood
Emma Soyer née Jones (1813 – 1842)
Emma Jones achieved considerable popularity as a painter, chiefly of portraits. Born in London in 1813, she was instructed in French, Italian and music, becoming a talented pianist. At an early age she became a pupil of the Belgian painter, Francois Simonau who in 1820 married Emma’s mother. He devoted all his time to teaching her and before she was twelve she had drawn more than a hundred portraits from life . She became one of the youngest persons to exhibit at the Royal Academy when in 1823 at the age of 10, she submitted the Watercress Woman, and a total of fourteen of her works were exhibited there. She married Alexis Soyer in 1837. He was a French chef who escaped from France during the 1830 Revolution, to become the most celebrated cook in England. He worked for the Duke of Cambridge’s household where his brother was head chef and then from 1837 – 1850 he was chef at the newly built Reform Club, in London, designing the innovative kitchens there with Charles Barry, which became so famous that they were open for conducted tours by the public. Emma turned her attention to portraits in oil, travelled round England painting, returning to London to paint the Blind Boy and the Crossing Sweeper. She showed two paintings at the 1842 Paris Salon, but died the same year following complications suffered in a premature childbirth brought on by a thunderstorm. Distraught, Soyer erected a monument to her at Kensal Rise Cemetery. In 2018, her painting of two black girls in a tropical landscape which was painted in 1831 for the Abolitionist cause in England featured in the BBC television programme Fake or Fortune.
Lady Laura Alma Tadema 1852 – 1909
Her sister Ellen studied under Ford Madox Brown and that is how artist Laurence Alma-Tadema met her in 1869. She was 17 and he was 33, his first wife having just died. When the Franco-Prussian war forced Alma-Tadema to leave Europe he chose England because of her, and gave her painting lessons . Her father opposed the match until they knew each other better, and they married in 1871 , when she became his wife , a well known hostess at Alma-Tadema’s two homes in St John’s Wood and a good stepmother to his two daughters.
She continued with her painting, specialising in domestic and genre scenes of women and children, often in Dutch 17th century settings. Over the years she exhibited 18 paintings at the Royal Academy. At the 1878 Paris International Exhibition, she was one of only 2 English women who exhibited. In 1876, she won the Gold medal at the Internationale Kunstaussrwellung, Berlin, and in 1893 the silver medal at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. She was frequently painted by her husband – for example in The Women of Amphissa in 1887, where she is the standing figure in the centre wearing an olive green dress . Her health gradually worsened and she died in 1909 after a cure in Germany failed.
Esther Waterhouse née Kenworthy 1857 – 1942
Esther was married to painter John Waterhouse and exhibited her own flower-paintings at the Royal Academy and Royal Society of British Artists in London. Initially, the couple lived in a purpose built artistic colony in Primrose Hill , where the houses had studios. Around 1900, they moved to Hall Road in St John’s Wood. She did not exhibit after 1890 until 1925 when, in some financial distress after her husband’s death, she exhibited Marigolds at RSBA.
Helen Hatton 1859 -1955
Helen was the daughter of Louise and Joseph Hatton (1837 – 1907), a novelist and journalist who was editor of the Sunday Times from 1874 – 1881, editor of the Gentleman’s Magazine, London correspondent of the New York Times , and sister of Frank and Bessie. In 1871 they were all living in Titchfield Terrace with a nurse and two maids.
Helen became a painter, working in pastels and watercolours, and her work was widely exhibited both before and after her marriage to painter William Henry Margetson (1861 – 1940,) who had illustrated some of her father’s books. They married at St Mark’s, Hamilton Terrace on 20 June 1889, eventually having three children, Hester, Beryl and Olive.
Christabel Annie Frampton née Cockerell 1864 – 1951
was a British painter of children, portraits and landscapes. She studied at the Royal Academy School in 1872, where she met her husband, sculptor George Frampton. They married in 1895 and their son, Meredith was born a year later. They had moved to Queen’s Road (now Grove) in St John’s Wood in time for his birth. She continued to exhibit her art using her maiden name. The house had a very large garden, but studios were built over it to Frampton’s requirements by emerging St John’s Wood architect Charles Voysey. Frampton’s studio was a comfortable workshop with large uncluttered spaces for his large sculptures. In 1908 Christabel wrote to a friend saying they were moving to 90 Carlton Hill with a larger garden which she hoped it would provide relaxation for her husband, as he needed a hobby. There was already a house and stable on the site and Christabel’s studio was built there but Frampton had a new studio, perfectly lighted and of great extent with enormous doors to give access for his sculptures. The house was designed with the help of Guy Dawber, country house architect. Christabel’s painting room was comfortable with suspended wooden beams ; it had models of sailing ships hung between the beams, and a rug from Lord Leighton’s studio on the floor. She stopped exhibiting in 1910.
Maud Earl 1984 -1943
An American painter best known for her accurate paintings of dog breeds, her warm, descriptive portraits of dogs, executed in a sketchy yet realistic style, were popular among the royal family. Born in St. Marylebone, she lived at 8 Elm Tree Road with her father, uncle and brother who were all animal painters. Her father taught her to paint and made her study anatomy. and she also studied at the the Royal Female School of Art which was a professional institution for the training of women in art and design, founded in 1842 as part of the Government School of Design. She returned to live in New York in 1916, feeling that the era of Britain she knew and loved had passed due to WW I, and she died in there in 1943. Her works are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and various galleries in England.
Gertrude Bayes née Smith 1870 – 1952
was a sculptor who had been a student when she met her husband at the Academy School where Gilbert won the Gold Medal in 1899. They married in 1906, and went to live in Boundary Road, St John’s Wood. They had two children, Jean, born in 1910 and Geoffrey, born in 1912. His career gradually became successful particularly when he sculpted the Australian War Memorial. In 1929, Gilbert, Gertrude and their family moved to 4 Greville Place which provided them with not only a spacious garden but also for the potential for both of them to have their own studios. This also afforded them the room to entertain and Gilbert designed the garden with pergolas and ponds, inlaid with mosaic, as a foil to show off his garden sculptures. The interwar years were very successful but by the end of WWII his style was somewhat old fashioned. Gertrude was by now bedridden after a stroke and for the last seven years of her life required his constant attention. She died in 1952 and Gilbert a year later.
Dame Laura Knight 1877 – 1970
Laura met Harold Knight when they were both at art school; they married in 1903 and became central figures in the artists’ colony at Newlyn, in Cornwall. In 1915, she painted a self- portrait with a nude figure which was a challenge to the ban on women students attending life classes. She was a painter in the figurative realist tradition, working in oils, water colours and etching, and specialised in paintings of the theatrical and ballet world, and of marginalised communities like gypsies and circus performers. In 1929 she was created a Dame and in 1936 became the first woman elected to the Royal Academy since 1769. In the early 1930s, the Knights lived in a rented house in Langford Place but, in 1937, they purchased 12, 14 and 16 Langford Place for £8,000. Dame Laura had a studio at 9 Langford Place from where she painted Spring in St John’s Wood in 1933. She painted the De Peyer family in the early 1930s and later the elder son Gervase, the famous clarinettist, lived next door to her in Langford Place.
Laura was a war artist in WWII, notably painting the Nazi leaders at the Nuremberg trial, which showed a ruined city in flames behind the court scene. As she wrote, in that ruined city death and destruction are ever present. They had to come into the picture, without them, it would not be the Nuremberg as it now is during the trial, when the death of millions and utter devastation are the sole topics of conversation wherever one goes – whatever one is doing.
Katharine Frances O’Brien, née Clausen (1886-1936)
Katharine was the daughter of painter, George Clausen, and was born in New York before returning to St John’s Wood. She studied at the Royal Academy Schools and was a painter and engraver who exhibited at the Royal Academy, New English Art Club, Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours, Beaux Arts Gallery and the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; she illustrated Nancy in the Wood by Marion Brye in1914. Her first fiancée was killed in WW1 commemorated by her father ‘s painting Youth Mourning. She later married the Irishman, Conor O’Brien, a master mariner, with whom she sailed extensively and lived and worked in London and Dublin. A memorial exhibition was held in the Beaux Arts Gallery, 1936. Her work is held in the collections of the Braintree District Museum, Crawford Art Gallery, National Museum of Wales, as well as the British Museum.
Dod Proctor (Doris Margaret Shaw ) 1892-1972
She was born in Hampstead and attended the St John’s Wood School of Art and the Forbes School, in Newlyn, where met fellow artist Ernest Proctor. In 1910 she went with her mother and Ernest to study in Paris. In 1912 she married Ernest and their son Bill was born in 1913, the same year that she first exhibited at the Royal Academy. In 1920, Dod and Ernest decorated Kokine Palace, in Rangoon and painted portraits of local people and British expats. After returning to Newlyn in 1922, she began a series of simple monumental portraits of young women, emphasising the fall of light across the figure. Her painting Morning, of the 16 year old daughter of a Cornish fisherman, was bought for the nation by the Daily Mail as the Picture of the Year 1927, and is now in the Tate Gallery. She illustrated a book called Penny for the Guy by Clare Collas. She was a friend of Hannah Gluckstein, Laura Knight and Jeanne du Maurier (1911-96) with whom she spent time in Tenerife and South Africa after the death of Ernest, in 1935. In 1942 she became a Royal Academician.
Hannah Gluckstein ‘Gluck’ 1895 -1978
Hannah rejected any forename or prefix and demanded to be known as Gluck which was gender nonconforming . Her father was Joseph Gluckstein, part of J Lyons and Co catering empire. Her younger brother was Conservative politician Sir Louis Gluckstein Q.C., who lived in Elm Tree Road, St John’s Wood. She was at the Dame school in Swiss Cottage until 1910, and then attended St Paul’s Girls School until 1913. She was awarded a Royal Drawing Society silver star and attended the St John’s Wood School of Art until 1916. She then moved to the artists’ colony at Lamorna, in Cornwall with a woman friend, Craig, where she adopted a masculine appearance. In 1916 Alfred Munnings painted her smoking a pipe. In the 1920s and 1930s, she had various solo exhibitions and became known for portraits and floral paintings. The Art News thought her paintings were “a curious compound of the masculine and the feminine point of view.” Her father bought her Bolton House on Windmill Hill in Hampstead, next to Fenton House, where she lived with socialite Sybil Cookson (plus a housekeeper cook and maid) until it was requisitioned for Fire Service, in 1939, although this did not prevent various affairs with, for example, the creator of Muffin the Mule, Annette Mills, and flower arranger, Constance Spry . This ended after she met Nesta Obermer in 1936, but when that ended she suffered from artist’s block until the final works in the 1960s. In 1943 she met Edith Shackleton Heald, and they lived together until Edith’s death, in 1976.
Clare Leighton 1898 – 1989
Clare Leighton grew up in Abbey Road where both her parents were writers, her mother Marie a famous novelist, and she wrote a book Tempestuous Petticoats about life there with her two brothers, one of whom, Roland, was killed in WWI. Clare studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and became famous for her wood engravings. She designed the glass windows in Worcester Cathedral, Mass, in New England which depict the life of St Paul and comprise the entire fenestration of the whole cathedral. She emigrated to America in 1945 and died in 1989.
Olga Lehman 1912-2001
Painter, illustrator and designer, born in Chile. Olga won a scholarship to Slade School of Fine Art, studying under Allan Gwynne-Jones and Vladimir Polunin. She worked for three years at Covent Garden Opera House, then was in costume design and was art director for Rank Advertising, which led to work in Hollywood. Her film credits including Laughter in Paradise, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness and Witness for the Prosecution, and she painted many portraits. She was permitted by the War Office to make sketches of London bomb damage, air raid shelters and ARP personnel, many of which feature St John’s Wood. Her own flat in Hampstead was destroyed in the Blitz in 1940.
Jean Reddaway née Brett (1923-2018)
Jean’s school in N. Wales was evacuated to Chatsworth in the Second World War and she was painted there by Edward Halliday, another St John’s Wood artist, brushing her hair in her dormitory which was situated in the State Drawing Room. She studied at the Slade and taught in a school until her marriage to Norman Reddaway, a diplomat who became Ambassador to Poland in the 1970s . As well as being the mother of five children, she continued painting and received an OBE and a Polish decoration for her work painting Polish scenes and people and improving Anglo-Polish relations. She and her husband lived in Carlton Hill for many years.
Charlotte Halliday (1935 –
She came to live in St John’s Wood in 1946 at 42 Acacia road, moving to Hamilton Terrace in 1949 which had a larger studio for her father painter, Edward Halliday. She studied at the Royal Academy schools winning a silver medal for drawing. She was influenced in her study of architecture by Professor Albert Richardson.
“St John’s Wood has really given me a living because I love all the streets of white stucco and brick, and the architecture which includes the occasional Georgian terrace and the Victorian gothic gables. Quite a mixture of styles. They are there for me to paint all the year round, and it is only two miles from Oxford Circus. It could hardly be better.” She works in pen and ink, pastels and water colours.