Nellie Joshua (1877-1960):
Heatherley's Art School, circa 1900
Framed (ref: 4779)
Oil on canvas
24 x 18 in. (61 x 45.7 cm.)
Provenance: Private collection
Exhibitited: The Edwardian Era, Barbican Art Gallery, (November 87-February 88), no 56.
Literature: The Edwardian Era, Barbican Art Gallery, (November 87-February 88), p 40.
Heatherley School of Art was founded in 1845 by a group of students from the Government School of Design. Named after Thomas Heatherley (1824–1913), who took over as principal from James Matthews Leigh (1808–1860) and ran the school for nearly thirty years from Newman Street, London.
Heatherley’s, as it is affectionately known, is one of the oldest independent art schools in London and the first to admit women to the life room on equal terms with men. Women artists who attended the school include Emily Mary Osborn, Kate Greenway and Laura Herford – the first woman to be admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in 1860. In Nellie Joshua’s highly observed work she depicts the school’s large collection of historical dress, ceramics and armour which formed a costume studio for the use of students. The painting seems to relate to a contemporary photograph in Heatherley’s archive which shows the same view of the costume studio and two seated women students (see biographical entry for Joshua). The students who are wearing matching painting smocks in hues of blue – perhaps one is the artist herself – appear to be looking at a sketchbook.
Samuel Butler’s work Mr Heatherley’s Holiday: An Incident in Studio Life (1874, Tate) depicts another view of the school’s costume studio. In a letter to OTJ Alpers (17 February 1902), Butler wrote: “When I was studying painting in my kind old friend Mr. Heatherley’s studio, I remember hearing a student ask how long a man might hope to go on improving. Mr Heatherley said: ‘As long as he is not satisfied with his own work’.”
Commentary by Alice Strickland, curator for the National Trust in London and the South East. Her research interests include British women artists, with a particular focus on their education and exhibiting opportunities. She is an active member of the Tate’s British Women Artists 1750–1950 Network.