Understanding British Portraits professional network: Fellowships 2016

Kate Noble: The sitters in this portrait are
Kate and Grace Hoare, who were the daughters of a wealthy paint and varnish manufacturer.
They were twin sisters and the painting was painted on the occasion of their twentieth
birthday. Lucy Shipp: The painting was created by Sir
John Everett Millais and it was painted in 1876. The portrait seems to have been commissioned
by their mother, Emma Elizabeth Bird, and Ethel Rolls Hoare was the twins’ younger
sister, and she wrote a diary, and in that diary, she talks about someone suggesting
to the family: get Millais to paint the portrait, because they’ll be the most talked about
girls in London. Kate Noble: I started working on the Fellowship
with my colleague Lucy Sercombe, who has left now, but came to me with the idea of applying
when she saw it advertised. When we had started to look at what we already knew about the
painting, we had a lot of information about Millais, we had a lot of information about
the girls’ father, and about who the girls had ended up marrying, so their husbands.
But we didn’t really have any information about the girls as individuals and as young
women. So we felt this was an opportunity to provide a context for these girls and their
lives. One of the most exciting things that we discovered
was that Kate had been an artist in her own right, and created her own portraits in the
form of an album photo collage, which we found at the archive at the V&A. So that’s been
a very exciting avenue to explore. We’ve been able to go down to the V&A and request
to look at her photo album, which is quite extraordinary and has given us a glimpse into
this hidden life of Victorian ladies and what they do with their spare time, and the relationships
between them and their friends and their families. Lucy Shipp: The painting was fairly recently
acquired to the Fitzwilliam Museum, and that’s enabled us to have first-hand contact with
some living descendants of Kate and Grace Hoare, and that’s been fantastic talking
to them, gathering their memories, and through that, they provided us with some photographs
of the twins when they were much older in age, and also a sketch of the twins by their
drawing tutor. Going on from there, we’ve also met with
curators at both the National Portrait Gallery and V&A, who are experts in their fields.
The main output that we’ve created for the Fellowship is a digital resource, and the
resource is really focused in on A-Level students who’ll be studying for an Extended Project
Qualification. And we wanted to do that, because through one painting – The Twins – that
we’ve chosen, we’ve been able to find out contextual information about the time,
the sisters’ family tree, but also include scientific information such as conservation
reports, the history of the painting, where it’s been at different stages in time, reviews
from when the painting was exhibited. We really wanted the A-Level students to be able to
use this resource to focus in on a particular aspect that might interest them. Kate Noble: In addition to the digital resource,
we’ve also been spending time creating resources in-house that we will make readily available
to both the general public and to our schools audience. So, for example, a factsheet on
the painting, which summarises what we’ve discovered.
The mentoring aspect of the project has been really useful, because it’s been a way of
me working with a new team member to talk about educational practice more generally
both within the context of the project, but also within the wider context of the work
that we do here at the Fitzwilliam Museum. So we sort of make those discoveries, going
through that process together, picking up the album and opening it together was so much
more exciting and a much richer experience for having somebody to, kind of, talk to about
it and experience it with. Lucy Shipp: Having those conversations and
hearing the questions that you wanted to find out about the album and sharing my questions
was really interesting, kind of, getting an insight into how you work, as well. Kate Noble: I think one of the most valuable
aspects has been the opportunity to work together in collaboration with Lucy. But also to raise
the prestige of the work we do within Learning, within the institution as well, where these
kind of collections-focused Fellowships have been traditionally awarded to curatorial departments,
so to have this focus within Learning and this opportunity to go and to look at an object
in this amount of depth has been really, really useful, and it’s lovely to have the opportunity
now to go and share our research with curatorial colleagues. So it, sort of, slightly changes
that dialogue and that conversation, which has been very, very rewarding and interesting. Su Hepburn: This is portrait of Frances Wolseley.
The portrait was painted in 1884, and it’s a portrait of Frances when she is twelve years
old. The painter of this portrait is Julian Story. He was a very sought-after portrait
painter for people in the upper echelons of society. Frances and her mother put forward the idea
of opening up a school for women to learn the trade of gardening in order to earn their
own wage, and Frances opened up the Glynde School for Lady Gardeners in 1903. This was
the first school in the country offering women a technical trade. In the 1920s, Frances Wolseley donated funds
to Hove Library to build the Wolseley Room, dedicating the room to the study of horticulture
and agriculture. After her death, Frances bequeathed her archive of personal letters
and her collection of papers from her father, Garnet Wolseley. The portrait of Frances Wolseley is part of
Brighton and Hove City Council’s collections. It sits in the Wolseley Room at Hove Library,
and is cared for by Royal Pavilion and Museums Collections. We wanted to find a way to share this story
of this remarkable woman with schoolchildren in the city and beyond. We run a workshop
with schoolchildren, being Art Detectives looking at the portrait. As part of the workshop,
the children took Polaroids of themselves and wrote down their own biography. I asked
them to reflect on what they may have left out. As I’ve been researching, I’ve always
had in the back of my mind that Frances self-edited her archives, so some things will be missing.
So what I’m seeing may not be the whole picture of her. And this was important that
the children were also very aware that what you may see in somebody’s archive may not
be the whole picture. We’ve also produced an online teaching resource
for teachers in the city, Art Detective. This is based around the story of Frances Wolseley
and my own journey researching the portrait. It models to teachers and students how you
can now do your own research and find out the story of Frances Wolseley. As part of
my research, I’ve spent a lot of time looking through Frances’ personal archive of her
letters, her photographs and her drawings. I’ve also been on research visits to the
Lindley Library of the Royal Horticultural Society, Ranger’s House in Greenwich, Wakehurst
Gardens, and also met with the Schools Manager at the National Portrait Gallery. After taking part in this Fellowship, I now
feel much more confident talking to teachers and students about how to use archives themselves
to help do their research, and being their own Art Detectives. Laura Millward: Here at the Stanley and Audrey
Burton Gallery, displayed behind me, are the portraits of John Marshall, who was a Leeds
flax mill owner and his wife, Jane. Jane was friends at school with Dorothy Wordsworth,
the author and poet and sister of William Wordsworth. These portraits were produced
by the artist John Russell, who is now thought of as one of Britain’s foremost pastellists. I applied for the Fellowship in order to research
the portraits and be able to make the portraits more accessible to visitors. So I thought
this was a fantastic opportunity to be able to increase the gallery’s interpretation. Two of the outcomes for the project are the
interpretation panel, which is displayed next to the portraits, which includes biographies
of John and Jane Marshall, and the artist John Russell. There is also a leaflet which
contains a trail linking many of the building John Marshall was associated with in Leeds,
and shows the legacy he did leave to the city. The trail, Mills and Mummies, contains a map
of Leeds and the Holbeck area, and also has images of the buildings which connect John
Marshall to Leeds, and quite surprising cultural and educational institutes. He had a keen interest in Egyptology and was
involved with acquiring a mummy from Egypt via the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society,
and Marshall also carried on with this interest through the architecture of the now Grade
I-listed Temple or Marshall’s Mill. The visits to the V&A archive to view the
John Russell journals were very useful in terms of finding out more about his visits
to Leeds. I also visited the National Portrait Gallery and was able to see a self-portrait
of Russell. I’d also visited the Guildford Museum, where they have the largest collection
of John Russell’s paintings, and it was fascinating to visit the Wordsworth Trust
in Cumbria, where I was able to view the letters between Jane Marshall, Dorothy Wordsworth
and John Marshall and William Wordsworth. I feel visitors to the Stanley and Audrey
Burton Gallery will be able to access more information about the portraits via the new
interpretation panel and also the Marshall city trail and also, in future, the staff
at the gallery, as the notes which I’ve made over the project will be available in
the object history file for the paintings. The Fellowship has increased my knowledge
on researching portraits quite greatly. I think the most valuable part for me has been
having the time to be able to visit the archives and research the portraits, which is a very
rare opportunity.

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