Saturday, June 8, 2019

Mary Riter Hamilton (1873–1954) – Canadian Artist

AMary Riter Hamilton Exhibition Panel
Mary Riter Hamilton was commissioned by the Canadian War Amputees Association to go and paint what she saw of the desolation left by the conflict. In May 1919, Mary travelled to France, where she lived for three years in a tin hut among the members of the Chinese Labour Corps who cleared away the mess left by the conflict.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to live there back then? The water table had become contaminated early on in the war and food was scarce. As local people began to return to the area, they shared their food with Mary but it obviously was not like the food you can get if you visit the area now! Food was scarce and indigestible.

One of Mary's paintings on the Western Front
Nothing daunted, Mary painted on, in spite of being attacked by some of the members of the gangs of bounty hunters, etc that roamed the area in the immediate aftermath of the war. Her health suffered and she lost the sight of one eye.   Before she returned home, some of Mary's amazing paintings went on display in London and Paris. When she returned to Canada, Mary donated her 300+ paintings to the National Archives and never painted again. Photo: one of Mary Riter Hamilton's paintings on the Western Front.

You can see more of Mary's WW1 work on and find out more about the Canadian War Amps

"Trenches on the Somme" by Mary Riter Hamilton

David McLellan (1886 - 1962) – Official WW1 Photographer

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for bringing David McLellan to my attention
and setting me off on a voyage of discovery to find out more about him

David McLellan was born on 18th March 1886 in Islington, London, UK.  His parents were J.W. McLellan, an architectural photographer, and his wife, Mary Ann A. McLellan nee Haydon. David had the following siblings: Violet, b. 1885, Wallace, b. 1888 and Archie, b. 1889.  The family lived in Highbury Grove, Islington.

During the First World War, David joined the Royal Flying Corps as a photographer in 1915 and was promoted to Flight Sergeant in 1916. In 1917, he became an official war photographer for the “Daily Mail” and the “Daily Mirror” newspapers. One of only five official photographers on the Western Front, David’s task was to generate positive propaganda.

In 1917, David married Hilda Ellis..  By 1939, David and Hilda were living in Eastville Avenue, Hendon, Middlesex, UK, where David died in 1962.

Much of David McLellan's First World War work is in the safe-keeping of the Imperial War Museum in London. 

Sources:  Find my Past, Free BMD and

Photograph by David McLellan - WAACs drawing petrol July 1918 - Western Front Etaples.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Margaret Rose Preston (29 April 1875 – 28 May 1963) - Australian artist and printmaker - Occupational Therapy Teacher WW1

With grateful thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for bringing Margaret and her work to my attention

Margaret Rose Preston 
Margaret Rose Preston was born on 29th April 1875 in Port Adelaide, Australia.   Her parents were David McPherson, a Scottish marine engineer, and his wife Prudence McPherson. Margaret was the first-born child;  her sister Ethelwynne was born in 1877.

In 1885, the family moved to Sydney and Margaret was educated at Fort Street Girls' High School.  She demonstrated an early aptitude for art, first with china painting. Margaret took private art classes with William Lister Lister, an Australian artist and seven times winner of the Wynne Prize for landscape art.

In 1899, Margaret set up her own studio and later taught at St Peter's College and at Presbyterian Ladies' College in Adelaide.

After the death of her mother, Margaret travelled to France in 1912 with Gladys Reynell (1881–1956), one of South Australia's earliest potters. When war was declared in August 1914, Margaret and Gladys moved to  Britain.  Margaret studied pottery and the principles of Modernist design at Roger Fry's Omega Workshops. Later, she and Gladys taught pottery and basket-weaving as therapy for shell-shocked soldiers at the Seale Hayne Military Hospital in Devonshire. During that time, Margaret exhibited her work in both London and Paris during this period.

Example of Margaret's artwork
In 1919, Margaret travelled to America for an exhibition at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On her way back to Australia, she met her future husband, William George "Bill" Preston, a recently demobilised Second Lieutenant of the Australian Imperial Force. They were married on 31st December 1919 and settled in Mosman, a suburb of Sydney, Australia.

Margaret died on 28th May 1963.

Source:  Wikipedia

Friday, May 31, 2019

Charles Edward Dixon, R.I. (1872 – 1934) - British artist

 "Windy Corner of the Battle of Jutland"

Charles Dixon was born in Goring-on-Thames, UK on 8th December 1872. His parents were the artist Alfred Dixon and his wife, Mary Jane Dixon, nee Whitwam.   Charles had a brother, Frederick Geroge Dixon, who was born in 1877.  In 1891, the family lived in Alfred’s studio in Marylebone, London.

Encouraged by his father, Charles became a professional artist, and soon had a successful practice producing nautical scenes, both watercolours of coastal life and large oil paintings of historical or contemporary naval subjects. He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and several of his paintings are now in the collection of the National Maritime Museum in London. Charles first exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of 16 before contributing regularly to the magazines “The Illustrated London News”, “The Graphic” and “The Sphere”.   He was a fried of Sir Thomas Lipton, grocery magnate and travelled with him on each of the five Shamrock boats that Lipton entered for the America’s Cup races.

Charles also exhibited at the New Watercolour Society and various other venues and was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1900.  He was a keen yachtsman and lived in Itchenor on the Sussex coast in the UK. Charles died at his home on 12th September 1934.

The little boy in the painting is Alfred Dixon’s young son, Charles Edward Dixon, in an actual incident when he had been lost and picked up by the police. Having escaped the clutches of the law, the boy grew up to become a famous painter of water traffic on the Thames. The “Morning Post” carried an amusing review of the painting when it was exhibited at the RA in 1876: ‘The smallest figure upon this canvas is by far the most important personage of the scene. He is a mite of a child, certainly not more than three years old, who, having lost his way, has been taken by the police to a station- house, where he now sits at the end of a long bench, the very picture of infantile sorrow and bewilderment. There is something exceedingly tragi-comic in the disconsolate woe-begone air and manner of this tiny wanderer, as, with head slightly drooping on one side, he looks furtively from under his little hat at the gigantic policeman who has “run him in,” and who, standing in awful majesty, with his back to the fire, surveys him with some such expression of haughty patronage as an elephant might be imagined to bestow upon a flea. That august “Bobby” has not as yet quite fathomed the “Gainsborough” mystery, and he is still some what at sea about the Clerkenwell explosion: but on the present occasion he has on hand a case fairly within the compass of his professional abilities. He is proud of his capture, and evidently intends to make the most of him. So the prisoner is to understand that violence on his part will be of no avail to him, and that the best thing he can do is to submit patiently to his fate. Never surely were greatness and smallness brought into more ludicrous contrast; but it might hurt the consequence of the “force” to be told what is nevertheless the fact, that the captive excites far more interest than does his captor. The group of sergeants seated at the table, and so zealously employed in making out their sheet of night charges as to be apparently unconscious of the presence of their burly brother in arms (or rather in truncheons) and of his prisoner, is highly characteristic, and the whole scene is depicted with a quaint, quiet humour not to be resisted. This is a clever and original work, full of drollery not unrelieved with a touch of homely pathos, so that one hardly knows whether to bestow tears or laughter on the lilliputian wayfarer who is “miles away from home”. Why so good a picture should have been placed above rather than upon the line is a mystery past finding out by any one not in the confidence of the Hanging Committee.’

Find my Past and Wikipedia

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Charles Ernest Butler (1864 – 1933) – British artist

Charles Ernest Butler, born in 1864 at St Leonards on Sea, Sussex, UK, was a portrait and landscape painter. He also painted mythological and other figure subjects.

Charles studied at St Johns Wood School of Art and also attended  Royal Academy schools. Charles exhibited his work at The Royal Academy (R.A.) in London, The London Salon and the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. He died in 1933.

His painting “Blood and Iron”, painted in 1916 was exhibited at the Royal Academy. The painting depicts Kaiser Wilhelm II on horseback, followed by his army. He is turning back and looking indifferently at the civilian victims at his feet. Hovering behind the Kaiser, the Angel of Death urges him along his path of destruction. In the background, a city — thought to be Louvain, in Belgium — is ablaze. In the foreground, Christ is helping the fallen.

Blood and Iron (German: Blut und Eisen) is the name given to a speech made by Otto von Bismarck on 30th September 1862, when he was Minister President of Prussia.


James Clark (1858–1943) – British Artist and Stained Glass Designer

James Clark was born on 25th March 1858 in West Hartlepool, in the north-east of England, the eldest son of William and Ellen Clark.  His paternal grandfather came from Lanarkshire.  James’s father, William, went to work in the shipbuilding industry in Hartlepool and later, after spending time in South Africa, he set up a pawnbroking business in Hartlepool. James first trained as an architect, entering the office of the prominent local architect James Garry when he was twelve years old. His father paid for him to have watercolour painting lessons and in 1875 James gave up his architectural career for life as an artist, moving to London in 1877.

James won a scholarship to study at the National Art Training School, finishing his training in Paris, eventually attending the Ecole des Beaux Arts, where he studied under Léon Bonnat.

James married his childhood sweetheart, Elizabeth Hunter, in 1882 and the couple had three sons and three daughters.

James became famous shortly after the start of the First World War, when he painted “The Great Sacrifice”. The painting was reproduced as a souvenir print for the Christmas edition of “The Graphic”, a British weekly illustrated newspaper published from 1869 until 1932.  The prints were eagerly purchased, with one reviewer saying it had "turned railway bookstalls into wayside shrines." Framed copies were hung in churches next to Rolls of Honour, and clergymen gave sermons on the theme of the painting.

The original oil painting was purchased by Queen Mary, wife of the British monarch King George V and hangs in the church at Whippingham on the Isle of Wight, where it is a memorial to Prince Maurice of Battenburg, who was killed in action at Zonnebeke, in the Ypres Salient, on 27 October 1914.
James also painted “The Bombardment of the Hartlepools”.

After the war, James Clark designed a number of war memorials and several stained-glass windows, in both Britain and Canada, reproduced his painting, for instance, the 1916 memorial window in St Margaret’s Church, Mountain Ash, Cynon Valley, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales.

James and Elizabeth were living in Reigate, Surrey in 1939 and James died there in January 1943.

"The Bombardment of The Hartlepools"


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Victor Rousseau (1865 – 1954) - Belgian sculptor, writer and poet

A chance find on the Facebook Group Cemeteries & Memorials of the Gret War, was a post about the Belgian Gratitude Memorial of The First World War that is situated on the Embankment in London, UK.  The main sculpture was the work of Belgian sculptor Victor Rousseau.

Victor Rousseau was born in Feluy, Hainaut, Belgium on 15th December 1865 in “La Sonnette.”  His parents were Emile Rousseau and Philomène Duquesnes and his family were stone masons.   Victor took refuge in Britain during the First World War, returning to Belgium when the war was over.

Victor died at his home in Vorst (Forest), Brussels, on 17th March 1954. A street in Feluy was named after Victor.

Between 1935 and 1953 Victor wrote his memoirs, “Country pictures from my childhood,” as well as numerous “Notes” and over 300 poems.

I am now trying to find poems written by Victor Rousseau.

Photograph of the Belgian Memorial in London reproduced here by kind permission of photographer Kim Haslam - Photos ©️Kim Haslam 2019…/Anglo-Belgian_Memorial,_London