Exeter’s Fine Art Collection: Women Artists

Shining a spotlight on women artists in RAMM’s fine art collection, this exhibition features works from the 1770s until 2011

By Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery

Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter City Council

The Cherry Woman, Kate Greenaway (1846-1901), 1890 to 1891, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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Kate Greenaway was a Victorian artist and writer known for her children’s book illustrations.

In 1864 she attended the Royal Female School of Art. For the first time she was able to draw the human figure. In Victorian society it was unacceptable for women to draw the naked figure. Instead women drew from plaster casts and models dressed in historical and ornamental costume.

Early Spring, Newton St. Cyres, Olive Wharry (1886-1947), about 1920 to 1940, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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Olive Wharry was born in London in 1886 to a middle-class family. Olive studied at Exeter School of Art. She became an artist and suffragette.

This delicate watercolour depicts thatched cottages in the village of Newton St Cyres, which is located between Crediton and Exeter.

St. Sidwell’s Church, Exeter, after the Blitz, Olive Wharry (1886-1947), about 1942, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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St Sidwell’s Church was badly damaged in the Exeter Blitz. In the early hours of 4th May 1942 a 250kg bomb fell directly on St Sidwells.

The church tower was left standing but was so badly damaged that it was pulled down shortly after. A replacement church was built on the site by the Exeter based firm Lucas, Robert’s and Brown of Exeter.

Study of Dead Birds, Helen Cordelia Angell (1847-1884), about 1860 to 1884, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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Still life paintings were a popular subject matter in the Victorian period. Their realism, simplicity and detail appealed to Victorian tastes.

Helen Cordelia Angell, like many female artists of the period, would have chosen still life and flower painting as a specialism due to the social restrictions placed on women.

Her Majesty’s Last Recruit, Mrs Pearson Hayward (active about 1890-1910), 1901, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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Lucy F. Pearson Hayward is known primarily as a miniature and animal painter. She is recorded as living in Exeter in 1891 and then in 1905 moved to Teignmouth.

She is known to have exhibited at the Royal Society of Artists, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the London Salon and the Royal Hibernian Academy.

The Cabin from the Shore, Low Tide, Judith Ackland (1892-1971), 1941, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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The cabin was a former 19th century fisherman’s store with panoramic views out across Bideford Bay. It was used by the artist as a studio until her death in 1971.

A grade II building the cabin was passed to the National Trust in 2004. Each year the Trust offers an artistic residency at the cabin.

Newton St Cyres, Devon, Cecily K. Carlyon (d.1937), about 1934, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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This watercolour depicts the ford in the mid Devon village of Newton St Cyres. The village grew up around this shallow crossing place over the Shuttern brook.

Morning, Isabel Codrington (1874-1943), 1920 to 1934, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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Isabel Codrington was born in Bydown, Devon.
She was best known for her paintings of ‘gypsies, hawkers and portraits of peasants’.

Morning is typical of Codrington’s work and highlights her mastery of light and shadow.

Exeter Cathedral Close after the Blitz, Hester Frood (1882-1971), about 1942, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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The Exeter Blitz in May 1942 lasted one hour and 20 minutes. 40 acres of the city were either damaged or destroyed.

The cathedral survived the bombardment; the only damage it suffered was from a high explosive bomb that destroyed the side chapel of St James in the south aisle of the choir.

Preparation, Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), 1947, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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This painting of a surgeon preparing for an operation is one of a series produced between 1948 and 1949.

The artist had become friends with Norman Capener, an orthopedic surgeon based in Exeter, after one of her children had required surgery. He invited her to watch an operation and she was allowed to make drawings in operating theatres at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in Exeter, the National Orthopedic Hospital and the London Clinic.

Perspex Group on Orange E, Mary Martin (1907-1969), 1967, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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This is one of a series of five works entitled Perspex group on orange.

In these works Martin places seven pieces of Perspex in different orders against a large orange square of the same material. These sizes of the pieces have been chosen to reflect the Fibonacci series.

Grey Day at Shoreham on Sea, Sussex, Mary Williams (1911-2002), 1951, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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Evocative and romantic in feel, Mary William’s landscapes were mainly painted in watercolour.

She was a Member of the Society of Woman Artists and was elected to the Royal West of England Academy (R.W.A) in 1965 and was a regular exhibitor since 1950.

Brown Willy and Rough Tor, Cornwall, Margaret Morcom (20th Century), date uncertain, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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This atmospheric watercolour by the artist Margaret Morcom depicts Brown Willy, Cornwall’s highest hill situated on Bodmin moor.

Its summit reaches 1,378 feet (420 m) above sea level. From the top, both sides of the coast can be seen from Looe in the south to Tintagel in the North.

Psittacus Iris, Miss Ann Lee (late 18th century), about 1770, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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Before 1800 there were only a few women working as professional botanical artists. These women were often tutored by their husbands and other relatives. At this time some upper-class women published books of botanical drawings anonymously. This was because of the shame attached to the linking of a woman’s name with commercial ventures.

Often female artists would write an ‘apologia’; typically this would explain that that they were forced to utilise their talents to avoid poverty.

Privet Hawk Moth, Miss Harris, unknown date, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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Watercolour of a privet hawk moth and caterpillar from a bound sketch book of British Butterflies and Moths.

The Privet hawk moth is the largest resident moth of the UK and is widespread throughout the British Isles. As its name suggests, the caterpillar feeds exclusively on privet.

The College of the Vicar’s Choral, Exeter, Kate M Clarke (late 19th Century), 1889, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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This ancient college was situated between South Street and the Cathedral Yard. It was constructed between the years 1383 and 1388.

The college and hall were bombed on the 4th May 1942. They were completely destroyed along with several buildings on the top of South Street.

Paddling in the Sea, Mary Stella Edwards (1898-1989), about 1940 to 1979, From the collection of: Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery
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Mary Stella Edwards was inspired by the wild beauty of the Devon coast, painting many views of the local area around the settlement of Bucks Mills.

Paddling in the sea is notable for its vivacity and freshness of colour.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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