Thursday, August 29, 2019

Olive Hockin (1881–1936) – British artist, suffragette, author

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for this post

Olive was born early in 1881 in Bude, Cornwall, UK.  Her parents were Edward Hockin and his wife, Margaret Sarah Hockin, nee Floyer.   Edward died in June 1880, shortly before Olive was born.  Olive had a brother, Arthur, b. 1878

Olive studied art at The Slade School of Art.  By 1911, she was living in Berkshire and described her occupation as “artist".

She was imprisoned for four months in 1913 for bomb attacks at the home of Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. Papers with Olive's address were found at the scene of the attack and wire cutters and paraffin were later discovered at her home. While she was in prison, Olive agreed not to go on hunger strike providing she could continue to create art.  Olive continued exhibiting at the Society of Women Artists, at the Walker Gallery and until 1915, at the Royal Academy.

During the First World War, Olive  joined the Women’s Land Army and worked on a farm in Dartmoor, Devon. She wrote a book describing her experience as a Land-girl entitled “Two Girls on the Land: Wartime on a Dartmoor Farm”, published by E. Arnold, London, 1918.   Here is a quote from the book:

“In those early days of the War it was not common for a young woman to go about seeking situations as a farm-hand.  In the West Country especially, such a thing was almost unknown and long after the sight of lady farm-workers had become a commonplace in the home counties, th idea would be greeted with sceptical and derisive laughter by the slow-moving old farmers of Devon.” (Chapter 1 – “Arrival”, p. 8).
"Moorland View" watercolour by Olive Hockin

In 1922, Olive married John H. Leared who trained polo ponies in Cheltenham. They had two sons.

The National Portrait Gallery has a picture of her by the Criminal Record Office, and two pages of picture called "Surveillance Photograph of Militant Suffragettes", also by the Criminal Record Office, which includes her.

Cover of the Summer edition of the Suffragette publication "Votes for Women" designed by Olive Hockin. Date: June 26th 1914
And “Moorland View” watercolour

Olive Hockin cover design for "Votes for Women"

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Gilbert Rogers (1881 – 1956) – British Artist

With thanks to Sally Enzer for use of her research material from 'Gilbert Rogers - A Life'.

Gilbert Rogers was born on 9th November 1881 in Freshfield, Lancashire, then a small
village some fourteen miles north of Liverpool. His father, William Rogers, was a watch
and clockmaker, whose family had migrated to Liverpool from North Wales in the 1840s.
Gilbert’s schooling began at the Liverpool Institute, a short distant from the family
home at 14 Falkner Street. Displaying early artistic talent he went on to study art at the
Liverpool City School of Art where he later became a tutor as well as working as a
professional portrait painter. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1909, 1910, 1912
and 1914.

He enlisted into the ranks of the Royal Army Medical Corps on 9th November 1915 (Army
No. 78529) for Home Service and was sent to Eastbourne for his military and medical
training. He eventually became an instructor at the RAMC officer training school at

In 1918 he was called upon to manage a small group of RAMC soldier-artists who had
been commissioned by the Committee for the Medical History of the War to record the
war work of the military and civilian medical services (including the British Red Cross
Society & Order of St John of Jerusalem & the Voluntary Aid Detachment) both at home
and abroad. Rogers travelled to the Western Front in July 1918. The artists worked from
the Avenue Studios, located off Fulham Road in London, and were provided with art
materials, props and staff to assist them. In total they produced some six hundred pieces
of work which included paintings, models and bronzes. He was commissioned as a
Temporary Lieutenant for this role and received the Military MBE in the Peace Gazette of
June 1919. These artworks formed the Medical Section of the Great War Exhibition
which opened on the 9th June 1920 at the newly-established Imperial War Museum at
Crystal Palace, Sydenham Hill. The art works were later distributed to various military
establishments and can now be found at both the Imperial War Museum and the
Wellcome Collection in London.

After demobilisation in April 1920 Gilbert Rogers returned to Liverpool and became a
director of his younger brother’s furniture manufacturing and upholstery company, Guy
Rogers, Ltd. It was a popular local employer and the brothers were a respected and
successful partnership.

In 1922 Rogers became President of the Artists’ Club, a long-established gentlemen’s
business and social club, and maintained close links with the Liverpool artists community,
although there is no evidence that he continued his work as a portrait painter.

In 1924 he married Gertrude Jane Iceton in 1924, the former wife of his friend and art
school tutor, Arthur Baxter. The couple moved out of Liverpool and set up home on the
Wirral Peninsula, where Gilbert Rogers died on 20th May 1956 at their home in Oxton.

A number of Gilbert Rogers’ war-time oil paintings have been included in exhibitions
across the country to commemorate the centenary of the Great War, which has brought
renewed interest in this previously largely uncelebrated.

Sally Enzer <>

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Joyce Dennys (1893 – 1991) – British WW1 artist, VAD and nurse

Isabelle Dorothy Joyce Dennys was born in Simla, East Punjab State, India on 14th August 1893.  Her parents were Charles John Dennys, an officer in the British Army, and his wife, Lucy Wineward.

The Dennys family returned to Britain in 1886. Dennys enjoyed drawing lessons throughout her schooling and later enrolled at Exeter Art School.

Joyce was studying art when the First World War broke out. She volunteered to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment but, as she was too young to qualify as a VAD nurse, Joyce worked initially at General Duties at the Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital in Budleigh Salterton from December1914 - December 1915. Joyce said ‘All I ever did was to wash up plates and dishes, knives and forks. I had never done anything of the kind before because those were the days of servants, and in spite of being so poor, my parents had two.’

Sometime around 1915, Joyce drew the artwork for a VAD poster, used nationally to recruit women to Voluntary Aid Detachment work.

In early 1916, Joyce passed the Red Cross examinations to become a nurse and went to work at Hospital No. 2 in Exeter. Joyce’s friend Mary Tindall began composing humorous verses to accompany Joyce’s paintings. Joyce approached a publisher and their work was accepted and published. ‘Our Hospital ABC’ represents not only the alphabet but also the Australian (Anzac), British and Canadian soldiers who were treated at Hospital No.2 in Exeter.

“When we took it in turns to do night duty (…) I would get out my candle and my paint box and paint all night. The night surgeon said, “I really think that little nurse might wait ‘til I’ve finished my rounds.”’

In 1919 Dennys married Thomas Cann Evans, a young doctor who had been in Australia in 1914 and and who had been a major in the Australian Army Medical Corps.  Joyce and Tom moved to Australia. While living in New South Wales, Joyce's work was constantly in print and exhibited in many galleries. In 1922, the family moved back to Britain and settled in Budleigh Salterton, Devon. Joyce studied at the London Art School and continued to paint, draw and publish for the rest of her life. In 1926, painter Joyce Dennys (1893–1991) and writer Edmund George Valpy Knox, aka Evoe (1870 – 2 January) collaborated on A Winter Sports Alphabet.

Joyce died in London in 1991 and was cremated. Her ashes were scattered off the coast of Budleigh Salterton.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Geneste Penrose, MM (1889 - 1974) and Alan Edmund Beeton, MC (1880 – 1942) – artists who worked in a Camouflage Unit on the Western Front WW1

Alan Beeton self portrait
Alan Edmund Beeton was born on 8th February 1880 in Hampstead, London.   His father was Henry Ramie Beeton, a Member of the London Stock Exchange and his mother was Elizabeth Mary Ann Beeton, nee Dibley.  Alan had a sister, Mary, who was born in 1876.

The family bought an estate, “Hammonds” in Checkendon, near Reading in Berkshire,UK and entertained guests at weekend house parties, among the guests was the playwright George Bernard Shaw.

Alan was educated at the Collegiate School, Horton Hall School preparatory school and Charterhouse School, before going on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge.

When the First World War broke out, Alan enlisted in the Infantry as a Private and was then commissioned into the Royal Engineers.  He was posted to a Camouflage Unit, which came under the command of the Royal Engineers (known as the Sappers), who were producing camouflage in a small factory just behind the front-line in Aire near Hazebrouck. For his work, Alan was awarded the Military Cross, was mentioned twice in despatches and awarded the Croix de Guerre. He also found time to do his own work.

Among Alan’s fellow artists in the Camouflage Unite was the woman who was to become his wife.

Geneste Penrose was born in Wiltshire on 3rd September 1889.  Her parents were John Penrose from Devon, a Church of England Minister, and his wife, Jane E. Penrose.  In 1891, Geneste’s father was Vicar of West Ashton Church, Westbury, Wiltshire.  Geneste’s siblings were John, b. 1887 and Mary, b. 1888.
Geneste Penrose self portrait Camouflagae
Unit WW1

Geneste studied art at the Slade in London. She joined the Army and served as a Deputy Administrator on the Western front with the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps, where she was attached to a Camouflage Unit.

Alan and Geneste returned from the war as pacifists, both of them horrified by the whole experience. It bound them together. They were married in 1919.   In 1838, Alan was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Art.  In 1939 Alan and Geneste were living in Henley, Oxfordshire, UK.

Alan died in December 1942 and Geneste died in 1974.

Sources: Find my Past and

Friday, July 5, 2019

Henry Tonks (1862 - 1937) – British, doctor, artist and art teacher

With thanks to Sergio Sbalchiero for telling me that Henry Tonks served on the Italian Front during the First World War

Henry Tonks self portrait
Henry Tonks was born in Solihull, UK on 9th April 1862. His family owned a brass foundry in Birmingham. He was educated at Bloxham School and Clifton College in Bristol, before going on to study medicine at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton (1882–85) and the London Hospital in Whitechapel (1885–88). He became a house surgeon at the London Hospital in 1886, under Sir Frederick Treves. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1888 and moved to the Royal Free Hospital in London. He taught anatomy at the London Hospital medical school from 1892.

Beginning in 1888, Henry attended evening classes at Westminster School of Art, under Frederick Brown. He exhibited paintings with the New English Art Club from 1891 and became a member of the Club in 1895.  In 1892, Henry became a teacher at the Slade School of Fine Art, thus becoming "the most renowned and formidable teacher of his generation".

During the First World War, Henry resumed his medical career in 1914, working initially at a prisoner of war camp in Dorchester, and then at Hill Hall in Essex. He made pastel drawings of Auguste Rodin and his wife, who were refugees. He served as a medical orderly at a British Red Cross hospital near the Marne on the Western Front in France in 1915, before joining an ambulance unit on the Italian Front.
Henry Tonks "An Advanced Dressing Station, France" 1918

In 1916, Henry was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Medical Corps and worked for Harold Gillies producing pastel drawings recording facial injury cases at the Cambridge military hospital in Aldershot and the Queen's Hospital, Sidcup. In 1918, Henry was appointed an Official War Artist and accompanied John Singer Sargent on tours of the Western Front. In August 1918, they both witnessed a field of wounded men near Le Bac du Sud, Doullens, which became the basis for Sargent's vast canvas, “Gassed”.  Henry then accompanied the British Expeditionary Force to Archangel in Russia in 1919 as an official war artist.

Henry retired in 1930 declining the offer of a knighthood. An exhibition of his work was held in London at the Tate Gallery in 1936 - the second retrospective at the Tate for a living British artist. He died at his home in Chelsea on 8th January 1937.

Photograph showing Henry Tonks second from the left at The Villa Trento in Dolegnano, Italy - from Imperial War Museum

This amazing website - the link to which was sent to me by Sergio Sbalchero, shows some of the portraits painted by Henry Tonks of serious facial injuries sustained during WW1

Thursday, June 27, 2019

William Thomas Wood (1878 - 1958) - British artist

Mainly a landscape and flower painter, William Thomas Wood was born in Ipswich, Suffolk, UK on 17th June 1878. His parents were Thomas Wood, a builder, and his wife Anne, née Clarke,  He received his formal art education at the Regent Street Polytechnic and in Italy.

By 1900 William was living in Putney, London.  He exhibited his first work, entitled "Summer Heat" at the Royal Academy. In 1909, William married artist Camille Bernice Knowles. They had a son and a daughter. 

During the First World War, William served as a kite-balloon observer in the Royal Flying Corps. He  was appointed Official War Artist in The Balkans in 1918. Largely as a result of his war experience, Arthur J. Mann hired William to illustrate his book “The Salonika Front” ( A. & C. Black, London, 1920).

From 1900 – 1947 William exhibited over fifty-five works at the Royal Academy. He lived for most of his life in London, exhibiting his work frequently. William's work was extremely popular during his lifetime and he had a number of one-man shows at the Leicester Galleries, as well as receiving nine official public purchases. William was elected an Associate of the Royal Watercolor Society (R.W.S.) in 1913, and became a full member in 1918. He served as Vice President of the R.W.S. from 1923-1926 and became a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters (R.O.I.) in 1927. 

William died on 2nd June 1958.

Works by William T. Wood can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as the museums in Hull, Leeds, Manche­st­er and Perth.

WW1 works:

“Brought down in Flames”

“The great Fire, Salonica: The Famous White Tower in the Foreground” and “The Fire, Salonica: The Last Phase.” The Great Fire of Salonika occurred in 1917.
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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Felix Vallotton (1865 - 1925) – French artist

Self portrait 1923
Born Felix Edouard Vallotton in Lausanne, Switzerland on 28th December 1865, Felix studied art in Paris where he made his home, becoming a French citizen in 1900. 

When war broke out in 1914, Felix tried to volunteer for service in the French Army but was turned down because he was too old. In 1915–16 he returned to the medium of woodcut for the first time since 1901 to express his feelings for his adopted country in the series, “This is War”.

War painting by Felix Vallotton
In June 1917, the French Ministry of Fine Arts sent him, along with two other artists, for a three-week tour of the front lines. The sketches he produced became the basis for a group of paintings, The Church of Souain in Silhouette among them, in which he recorded with cool detachment the ruined landscape. The works made by the three artists were presented at the Musée du Luxembourg.

Verdun by Felix Vallotton
After the First World War, Felix travelled to different regions of France until 1924, continuing to paint.

In 1925, Félix Vallotton was hospitalized in Paris to have an operation but unfortunately he did not survive and died on 29th December 1925.

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for reminding me that I had not yet posted my write-up about Felix Vallotton