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Women Artists of the Clephan Collection – Part 2

The Clephan Collection is the largest collection of artworks kept at Preston Park Museum and was bequeathed to Stockton Council in the 1930s. Unusually for an art collection, it was donated by two women and includes paintings by at least nine women artists. This second part looks into the remaining five women artists of the collection.

‘Grey and Gold’ by Monica Taylor, watercolour. Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum.

Out of the 120 paintings Annie Elizabeth Clephan and Jane Helen Paget bequeathed to Stockton Council, nine paintings and drawings were created or attributed to nine women artists. Between the nine, there is a varied picture of success and recognition. Some were quite successful as artists, others branched out into teaching and some even played their part in forming art societies.

The aim of this two-part blog is to highlight the artworks and lives of these women, that their skill and contribution to art may be recognised and shared.

Phyllis Tiel Jordan

‘Welsh Estuary’ by Phyllis Tiel Jordan, watercolour. Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum.

Phyllis Tiel Jordan was born in Gloucester in 1896 to Joseph Tiel Jordan who was an artist and teacher of art. She studied art at Newcastle and the Leicester School of Art, and in the following years she became Art Mistress at Darlington High School and was on the Committee for Durham University. She was also a talented artist and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1928.

In 1930 both she and her father were accepted into the St. Ives Society of Artists. This society had only been founded in 1927. An artist’s colony had existed there since 1880, but this had been the first instance in which a society had been formed to exhibit work in the small fishing town.

Tiel Jordan and her father worked at St. Ives and exhibited there for two years, until they both took the decision to leave due to her father’s ill health. Jordan managed to maintain her membership to the Society until 1938, although it appears she was not exhibiting in the years leading up to this, by which time she was living in Leicester. At some point in her life she returned to St. Ives, where she died in 1959 aged 64.

While it is unclear when ‘Welsh Estuary’ was painted, Tiel Jordan’s talent as an artist is clear. The Welsh estuary of the title is not the focal point of the painting, but something hidden by the sand dunes. If anything it suggests the open expanse of the estuary, how vast it is compared to the close-up nature of the sand dunes.

This piece was probably part of Annie Clephan’s own private art collection as her father, Edwin Clephan, whose collection she donated, died when Tiel Jordan would have only been 10 years old.

Judith Oyler

‘Pines, Lincolnshire’ by Judith Oyler, watercolour. Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum.

Judith Audrey Allenby Oyler was born in Wychbold, Worcestershire in 1905. She had an early interest in art and was a student at the Grimsby School of Art in Lincolnshire and the Leicester College of Art. She was taught by artists and teachers such as John Pettinger, Sydney Robert Watson and George Scott Ingles – she was especially inspired by Ingles. Following her studies, she taught for a short while at the Harrogate School of Art, before moving on to Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School for Girls to be their Head of Art in 1935. It was there that she felt most at home as an art teacher and she stayed until her retirement in 1970.

As the Head of Art, Oyler was a dedicated teacher and encouraged her students to continue their artistic studies after leaving the school. She kept painting in watercolour and exhibited and sold her works in galleries in Lincoln. She also exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1944, 1950, 1952 and 1953. She joined the Lincolnshire Artists Society and made such an impression that they named a painting prize after her.

There is reason to believe that ‘Pines, Lincolnshire’ was painted in 1928, which may have been while she was a student at Grimsby School of Art. This is also another painting which would have been from Annie Clephan’s private collection, and also suggests that she may have liked to collect artworks from students as well as professional artists. Looking at the painting, there is a sense that Oyler felt drawn to Lincolnshire, even eight years before she made it her home and place of work.

Harriette Edith Grace

‘Still Life (1879)’ by Harriette Edith Grace, oil on canvas painting. Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum.

Harriette Edith Grace was born in 1860 in Hove, East Sussex. She showed exceptional artistic talent at a very young age and was admitted to the Royal Academy of Arts. There are records of her studying and being awarded between 1877 and 1881. It was in 1879 that she painted her Still Life when she was just 19 years old.

Still lifes were a popular form of art in the Victorian period, and students of art would have begun their studies painting still lifes, as they were often a useful way of understanding many of the basics of painting, such as shading, lighting and composition.

In 1881 she exhibited at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition with a portrait oil painting titled ‘Mrs Sussex Lennox’. Following her studies Grace became a portrait artist and teacher of drawing. Three of her portraits are kept at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery and East Surrey Museum.

Grace taught painting and drawing and exhibited her own works all her life. She did not marry and lived all her life in Hove, with most of her life spent in the same house on York Road where her family had moved to when she was young. By 1911 she was living with her two sisters, Frances Elizabeth and Anna Maria, who were also artists and teachers of painting.

Her obituary states that she and her sisters were well-known in local art circles in Hove, and it was almost considered fashionable to be painted by them. Her last exhibition with her sisters was held at Hove Public Library in December 1931. She died a month later aged 72.

It is unclear how her still life was acquired by the Clephan family. Given that it was painted while she was still at Royal Academy, it could be that the Clephans sometimes attended the Royal Academy exhibitions. Grace also exhibited in many cities across the country throughout her life, including Leicester, so she could have chosen to sell her painting to the Clephans there.

Angelica Kauffman

‘Head of a Girl’ attributed to Angelica Kauffman, pastel drawing. Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum.

Angelica Kauffman was born in Switzerland in 1741, and was taught how to paint and draw by her father, who painted murals for churches, and she worked alongside him from the age of 16. After travelling and working in Italy, she moved to England in 1766. Her talent as an artist was noticed by high society, and this led to her greatest achievement – being one of the 35 founders of the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1768.

The Royal Academy however was not a forward thinking institution – Kauffman, and an English painter, Mary Moser, were the only two women out of the 35 founders. Once their part in the Academy’s founding had been played, they were not expected to take part in the running of the Academy. It would not be until 1936 when another woman, Dame Laura Knight, would be elected as a full Academician. From the late 1970s and early 1980s there was a more concerted effort to recruit women artists, and since 2011 prominent female artists have been elected as Professors of the Academy.

Kauffman continued to exhibit at the RA, before she decided to return to Italy in 1782. Throughout her career, she painted scenes from classical literature and history, and self-portraits, with one depicting herself torn between two women, representing music and art, the two talents she had had to choose between when she was young.

Edwin Clephan’s acquisition of this drawing has not been recorded. It could be that he came across it by chance and leapt at the opportunity to have in his collection a study by an influential artist. Studies and sketches by artists are prized by collectors for their insight into the creative processes of an artist, and this is no exception – the sketch is highly detailed in terms of the woman’s expression and some shading. The woman’s face has an unusual quality to it, in how the bridge of the nose leads in a straight line into the forehead, which can be noted in some of Kauffman’s paintings. The woman’s hair is also tied up and braided – another trait of Kauffman’s painted women.

Monica Taylor

‘Klasse and Trantje in the Isle of Marken, Holland’, by Monica Taylor, watercolour. Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum.

Very little is known about Monica Taylor, and yet there are three of her paintings in Preston Park Museum’s collection, and they all differ in style and composition. ‘Grey and Gold’ is simple in the method of painting, almost abstract, but it depicts a field of bright yellow flowers and distant hills.

‘Klasse and Trantje in the Isle of Marken, Holland’ captures the sense of an unfamiliar way of life, one that is old and seems far away. It was not uncommon for artists between the 1870s and the early 1900s to paint scenes of traditional villages untouched by modern life. The modern art movement known as Impressionism originated in France but experienced a popular rising in England, and had come about through the efforts of artists to leave behind a modern, industrial way of life in cities and escape to rural farming and fishing villages. Taylor may well have travelled to Holland to paint this landscape.

Portrait of Miss Clephan by Monica Taylor

‘Portrait of Miss Clephan’ by Monica Taylor, pastel drawing. Image courtesy of Preston Park Museum.

Then there is ‘Portrait of Miss Clephan’, which suggests a familiarity between Taylor and Miss Clephan. Most people of higher standing would have commissioned a highly detailed, full-body oil painting of themselves to depict their wealth and status. Here the detail of Miss Clephan has been blurred somewhat by the use of pastel. She is pictured wearing a simple shirt and scarf, and appears to be sat close to Taylor. The background of the painting is also plain and featureless.

This is not a portrait meant to flatter a person of importance, but instead is quite intimate – was Monica Taylor a friend of the family? Or was she a student, and had Miss Clephan allowed her to draw her portrait as a favour to her in her development as an artist?

Out of the nine women artists featured in these blogs, Monica Taylor has proved to be the most elusive. There are no records of her having studied or worked in Leicester. There is also some dispute over the spelling of her name – records differ between Taylor and Tayler. She may also have been known as Minna rather than Monica.

Current research has led to some similarities between this artist and a Minna Tayler, a London-based artist who was alive between 1855 and 1936. However, the artist’s signature on ‘Klasse and Trantje in the Isle of Marken’ does not match Minna Tayler’s signature.

Might you know something about Monica Taylor or these paintings? If you do, then you can drop us an email at: Lucy.Passman@stockton.gov.uk and help us tell the story of this elusive artist.