Saturday, October 6, 2018

Nellie Elizabeth Isaac (1886 - 1955) – Artist, illustrator, designer and inventor

With thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron of the Facebook Page for posting the link to one of Nellie Isaac's paintings that set me off researching Nellie.

Nellie was born in 1886 and grew up in Hampstead, London, UK. Her Father was Percy Lewis Isaac, a naval architect and marine engineer with ship telegraph cable laying patents to his name. He was the son of the Liverpool ship portraitist and lithographer John Raphael Isaac. Nellie’s Mother was Florence Maud Isaac, nee Alexander. Nellie had a sister, Rose Amelia, and a brother, John Robert.  In 1901 the family lived at 20 Dennington Park Road in what is now London NW6.  By the 1911 Census, Nellie and her sister were both still living at home and listed as artists.

In 1904 Nellie had two watercolors “A Florentine” and “La Blonde” at the Royal Academy. In 1906 she won a second prize for “Providence and the Guitar”.

She set up shop with her sister Rose with premises at Eastgate Street in London’s west end. Before The First World War, Nellie exhibited her paintings at the Royal Academy and elsewhere.

During the First World War, Nellie and Rose Isaac gave up their art and design business and for two years they worked at Gordon, Watney and Co in Weybridge in order “to do something that we felt would be of national importance”. Gordon Watney & Co. Aeronautical Engineers of Weybridge were a large engineering works near Addleston that specialized in stripping-down and repairing cars and lorries.

When war broke out, Gordon Watney was appointed by the War Office to form a Mechanical Transport Supply Column within the Army Service Corps (MTASC), Home Counties Division afterwards attached to the 29th Division.  He turned part of his factory into a drill hall and urged men – including his employees – to enlist. He enrolled over 250 men in “Watney’s Lot” aka “Watney Boys” who served as mechanics and drivers. On 7th November 1914, the ‘Watney Boys’ marched to St James’s church, Weybridge, for a farewell sermon before posting to Egypt and Salonika and to the Dardanelles.

Watney’s wartime production included aeronautics and munitions and the factory also worked with the Canadian army in refurbishing motor transport vehicles – cars, ambulances and lorries.

Gordon Watney came from the famous Watney brewing family. He was a pioneering racing car driver and entered events at Brooklands Race Track. Before the war he was also dealer and rebuilder who specialized in remodeling high-quality motor cars.

One of their products was the Type Z7 Clerget-Blin rotary aero engine designed by Pierre Clerget in France in 1911. Clergets were one of the more common engines in use during WW I and were fitted to a number of aircraft including the Avro, Beardmore and the Sopwith Pup.

Contemporary newspaper accounts report that Gordon Watney built a theater in the works canteen and that he often directed and performed in plays.

When the Imperial War Museum came into existence in 1917, Agnes Conway – the daughter of the honorary director Sir Martin Conway – was invited to form a Women’s Work Sub-Committee.
Nellie Isaac contacted Conway asking if she could contribute to the effort. The committee offered her a guinea (£1. 1s. 0d – equivalent to about £210 in 2018) for each painting. Nellie was eventually able to negotiate a better rate.

After the war, Gordon Watney returned to his sports car business and Nellie and Rose Isaac went back to their illustration and design business in London. In 1934 the London post office directory list the business of the Misses N.E. and R.A. Isaac as follows:  ‘decorative artists at 26 Wells Street, Fitzrovia’.  The sisters had premised behind Oxford Street in London’s West End. Newspaper accounts in the 1930’s say that Nellie held art exhibitions organizing art exhibitions and that she invented 'an eggshell veneer' paint.

The sisters lived for a time at Rugby Mansions in Marylebone, before moving to Bramham Gardens, Earls Court where they lived with their mother until her death in 1938 and then for the remainder of their lives.  The girls' brother Robert emigrated to Canada when he was still in his teens.

Travel records demonstrate that the sisters travelled fist class to Mombasa in 1949 and to Madeira in 1953.

Nelly Isaac died in 1955 and her sister Rose died in 1959

Paintings by Nellie Isaac during WW1:

“A Performance in the Canteen Theatre” depicts women munitions workers at at Gordon Watney & Co., Aeronautical Engineers, Weybridge.

“Behind The Scenes in the Canteen Theatre - Waiting in the Wings” at Gordon Watney & Co., Aeronautical Engineers, Weybridge.  This painting depicts costumed women in the theatre wings, waiting to go on stage. Two men stand to the left, one holding a black cat prop by the tail.

“Receiving the News of the Armistice, November 11th 1918”

“Revels at the Victory Ball Given at the Canteen”: Ink and watercolor

“Armistice Week in the Canteen. November 12th 1918: Gordon Watney & Co., Aeronautical Engineers, Weybridge”


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Ernest Howard (E.H.) Shepard (1879 - 1976) – British artist

Perhaps most famous for his illustrations of the A.A. Milne stories about Winnie-the-Pooh

Ernest Howard Shepard, known as ‘Kip’ (from the musical hall term ‘giddy kipper’ meaning someone who was excitable), was born on 10th December 1879 in St. John’s Wood, London, UK.  He was the second son and youngest child of Henry Shepard, an architect, and his wife, Jessie, nee Lee.  Jessie was a daughter of William Lee the artist who co-founded “Punch” magazine.  Ernest had a sister, Ethel, J., b. 1877 and a brother, Cyril H., b. 1878. As a child he was interested in the Army and in guns and how they worked.

The children’s mother, Jessie, died when Ernest was ten years old.

Educated at Colet Court preparatory school, then St. Paul’s School, London, where his uncle was a master, Ernest studied art at Heatherley School of Fine Art.   He went on to win a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy Schools.  In 1901, Ernest had two works accepted by the Royal Academy for their Summer Exhibition.  He also drew cartoons for the magazine “British Boys”.

Ernest’s father died in 1902.  Ernest met a fellow art student called Florence Chaplin, known as “Pie”, and they were married in 1904.   In 1906, Ernest had his first illustration published in “Punch”.

When war broke out, Ernest volunteered to join the Army and joined the Royal Artillery on 14th December 1915.  He served on the Western Front from 10th June 1916, seeing action during the Somme Offensive.  Ernest wrote letters home and made numerous sketches and took photographs where possible.  Ernest’s brother Cyril joined the Devonshire Regiment and was an Acting Second Lieutenant when he was killed on 1st July 1916 during the Somme Offensive.  Ernest was able to locate his brother’s grave and visited it regularly.

Ernest’s regiment of Royal Garrison Artillery also saw action during the Arras and Passchendaele Battles.  In May 1917, Ernest was awarded a Military Cross for his courage and bravery during an attack on the guns on 23rd – 24th April 1917.

After the Italian defeat at the Battle of Caporetto, Allied troop reinforcements were sent to the Italian Front. Ernest and his 105 Siege Battery were posted to Italy on 12th November 1917 and were initially based on Montello Hill, overlooking the River Piave.   During home leave in May 1918 after attending a gunnery course, Ernest received his Military Cross from King George V at Buckingham Palace.  His leave ended on 24th June 1918 and Ernest returned to Italy, where he remained until March 1919, supervising the exchange of prisoners of war, the return of displaced people to their homes, where possible, and the securing of all arms and equipment.  Ernest was promoted to Acting Major in January 1919.

After the war, Ernest continued working for “Punch” and one day a fellow “Punch” contributor, the poet E.V. Lucas, father of poet Audrey Lucas, (see and, approached Ernest regarding illustrations for some verses written by A.A. Milne ( And so began one of the most successful collaborations in literature.  Initially published in “Punch”, “When we were Young” was published in 1924.

Ernest’s wife Florence died in September 1927.  He went on to illustrate Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows”, which was published in 1930.  Ernest and Florence’s daughter, Mary, became an artist and illustrator and illustrated “Mary Poppins”.  Mary married Edmund Valpy Knox (E.V. ‘Evoe’) Knox (see “Arras, Messines, Passchendaele & More: Poets, Writers, Artists & Nurses in 1917 – p. 107).  Ernest’s son Graham, a Lieutenant with the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, was killed during the Second World War when “HMS Polyanthus” was torpedoed on 19th – 20th September 1943.

Ernest married Norah Carroll, a nurse, in November 1944.   In 1954 he parted company with “Punch” after fifty years as a contributor and 20 years as Chief Cartoonist, when Malcolm Muggeridge became editor of the magazine.  Ernest was awarded an OBE in 1972 and died in Sussex in 1976.

“Shepard’s War: E.H. Shepard "The Man who Drew Winnie-the-Pooh” compiled by James Campbell (Lom Art, London, 2015) Note: pp 100 - 101 has an interesting drawing “Asiago Plateau 2 April 1918”.

Beatrice Ethel Lithiby (1889 – 1966) – British artist

Beatrice was born in Richmond, Surrey, UK on 4th December 1889. Her parents were John Lithiby (1853-1936), a barrister, and his wife Ethel Stewart Lithiby, née Smith (1860-1943), who were married in Brentford, Middlesex in 1888. By 1901, the family had moved to Porchester Square, Paddington, London, UK.  Beatrice had a brother, John S. Lithiby, who was born in 1893. Beatrice studied at the Royal Academy Schools.

During the First World War, Beatrice served initially in the British Red Cross as a volunteer worker from 29th October 1915 until 20th July 1917, in their Head Quarters at The Central Work Rooms, Royal Academy of Art, Piccadilly, London. 

She then joined Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps as an Assistant Administrator and served in France.   Realising the importance of keeping a record of events, Beatrice wrote to her superiors suggesting that she be permitted to paint some of the things she witnessed.  In February 1919, she was officially commissioned to paint the WAACs in France.  On 3rd June 1919, Beatrice was promoted to Unit Administrator.

After the death of her father on 14th February 1936, by which time he had been knighted, Beatrice set up a studio in Wantage, Berkshire.  By 1939, she was living at The Dower House, Waltham Cross, Essex.

Beatrice served again as an Army Officer during the Second World War.  She was awarded an M.B.E. and later an O.B.E.

As she grew older, Beatrice concentrated on landscape paintings. She died at The Guildry, Belmont, Wantage, Berkshire on 25th July 1966

Sources: Find my Past and;&source=bl&ots=4iVqW-vBj2&sig=9n2yT4qL3CTf84Pw0NJzTFGnqY4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj75NDCo_TcAhWLCMAKHfXqAMYQ6AEwC3oECAMQAQ#v=onepage&q=Beatrice%20Lithiby%20(OBE)%3B&f=false

WW1 Painting by Beatrice:
Steam Laundry Abbeville
The Administrators Quarters QMAAC Queen Mary’s Camp, Calais

Photo from the Collection at the Imperial War Museum, London, UK

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Joseph Franklin Kershaw (1884 - 1917) - British Artist

Joseph Franklin Kershaw was born on 2nd May 1884 in Oldham, Lancashire, UK. His parents were Joseph Kershaw, an ironmonger, and his wife, Hannah. Educated at Oldham Hulme Grammar School, Joseph then studied at Stockport School of Art and the Royal College of Art, gaining his ARCA Diploma in 1912. In 1907, he married Effie Gregory, an art teacher and daughter of a sculptor.

On 6th June 1916, Joseph joined the British Army as a Private, serving initially with the Border Regiment. During August he transferred to 126th Company of the Machine Gun Corps (MGC). Joseph was posted to the Western Front and was wounded in the shoulder in May 1917. He recovered, returned to the fighting and was killed on 14th October 1917 during the First Battle of Passchendaele.

Joseph was buried in Coxyde Military Cemetery, West Flanders, Belgium, with the wording on his headstone specified by Effie – ‘Artist, Oldham, Lancashire’. He is also commemorated on the war memorial at Storth, Morecambe Bay, where Effie was living at the time of her husband’s death.


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Stanhope Alexander Forbes (1857 – 1947) – British (Newlyn) artist

A founding member of the Newlyn (Cornwall, UK) School of Art: 'the father of the Newlyn School'

Stanhope was born in Dublin, Ireland on 18th November 1857.  His parents were William Forbes and Juliette de Guise Forbes, who was French. Stanhope’s father was British and he worked as a railway manager in Dublin before being transferred to London. Stanhope had an older brother, William, b. 1857, who became railway manager for the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway.

Educated at Dulwich College in South London, where he was a boarder, Stanhope studied art under John Sparkes. At that time, Alexander’s father was working for the Luxembourg Railway and, as his son was not well, he took him away from Dulwich College and allowed him to study with private teachers in Brussels. When the Franco-Prussian War ended in 1871, the Forbes family returned to London. John Sparkes helped influence William Forbes to recognise his son's artistic talent and Stanhope was sent to study at the Lambeth School of Art (now called The City and Guilds of London Art School). By 1878 he was at the Royal Academy, studying under Sir Frederic Leighton and Sir John Millais. Fellow students at the academy at that time included Arthur Hacker, Henry Herbert La Thangue and Solomon J. Solomon.

In 1889, Stanhope married a fellow artist - Elizabeth Adèla Armstrong, who was born in Canada - in St. Peter's Church in Newlyn, Cornwall. The couple lived in the "Cliffs Castle" cottage, Newlyn, which overlooked the sea. They had a son named Alexander, who was born in 1894 and was known as Alec. They had a house built in Higher Faughan, Penzance. The Newlyn Art School was founded in 1899.

Elizabeth Forbes died in 1912.   In 1915, Stanhope married a family friend – artist Maudie Palmer.

During the First World War, Stanhope's son Alec served in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry and was killed during The Somme Offensive in 1916.  He was buried in Guillemont Road Cemetery, where his headstone bears an inscription composed by his father: “HE SAW BEYOND THE FILTH OF BATTLE, AND THOUGHT DEATH A FAIR PRICE TO PAY TO BELONG TO THE COMPANY OF THESE FELLOWS”. Stanhope sculpted and erected a memorial to his son in their local parish church with the inscription: "I will get me out of my COUNTRY & from my KINDRED & from my FATHER'S house unto a LAND that GOD will shew me".

Stanhope Forbes died on 2nd March 1947.

WW1 painting “Munitions Girls, 1918”

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Rev. Canon Cyril Lomax - artist and WW1 Chaplain

Anglican Church Minister, the Reverend Canon Cyril Lomax, Rector of Holy Trinity Church in Washington, Tyne and Wear, UK from 1899 to 1946, volunteered to serve as a Chaplain with the Royal Army Chaplain's Department during the First World War.

The Rev. Lomax was posted to the 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and went with them to the Western Front from July 1916 until April 1917. Cyril, who was a talented artist, saw first-hand the devastation during the Somme Offensive from July to November 1916, describing and sketching the reality of life in the trenches.  His letters are about the physical and mental strains of trench warfare. During his time on the Western Front, The Rev. Lomax witnessed one of the first tank battles.

Cyril Lomax was born on 8th June 1871 in Eaton, near Congleton, Cheshire, UK.  His father was John Lomax, an Anglican Church Minister and his mother was Ellen Margaret Lomax. Cyril had the following siblings:  John A., b. 1862, Margaret, b. 1863, Jessy, b. 1865 and Bernard, b. 1866.

Historian Debbie Cameron has researched the Reverend Canon Lomax from the Imperial War Museum's Archives where his diaries are kept.   With many thanks to Debbie for these amazing drawings.

Donald Graeme MacLaren (1886- 1917) – British soldier artist

Donald Graeme MacLaren was born on 23rd January 1886 in Kensington, London, UK.  His parents were James Marjoribanks MacLaren (1853 – 1890), an architect, and Margaret  Mathieson MacLaren, nee McColl (1858 -1908).  Graeme had the following siblings:  John Leslie MacLaren and James Ewing MacLaren, twins born in September 1884, emigrated to South Carolina where John Leslie - always known as Leslie -  Janet S., b. 1888, Dorothy, b. 1890.

Donald’s parents met when James MacLaren was working in London and attended St John's Presbyterian Church in Allen Street, Kensington. The minister there was the Rev. Dugald MacColl from Glasgow. James became friendly with MacColl's son, Dugald Sutherland MacColl and on 28 February 1883 James MacLaren married Dugald's sister Margaret Mathieson MacColl.

Donald studied at the Slade School of Art, 1903-08, winning several prizes for figure compositions.

In 1913 he married Violet A Thomson in Liverpool.  When war broke out, Donald joined the 10th Battalion (Liverpool Scottish) of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment as a Private.   At the time of his death on the Western Front on 29th June 1917, Donald was a Second Lieutenant.  He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Ploegstreert Memorial in Belgium on Panel 3.

Donald’s uncle, Dugald Sutherland MacColl (1859-1948), became Keeper of the Wallace Collection (1911 – 1924) and then of the Tate Gallery. He was an artist, art critic, poet and founder of the National Art Collections Fund. He was friendly with many of the literary figures of the day - W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Lady Gregory, Max Beerbohm, H.G. Wells, Charles Ricketts, Augustus John, Auguste Rodin, Roger Fry and Walter Crane.  Donald painted his uncle's portrait in 1905.

I am trying to find a photograph or self portrait of Donald Graeme MacLaren and examples of some of his work.  If anyone can help please get in touch.