Friday, 3 June 2022

Kate and Sidney

 I started the research for this post by wanting to know more about the Birmingham artist Sidney Harold Meteyard (1868-1947) who you might know from such delicious paintings as this...

Hope Comforting Love in Bondage (1901) Sidney Meteyard

...oh and this one, obviously...

'I am Half-Sick of Shadows,' said the Lady of Shalott (1913) Sidney Meteyard

This painting was voted 'the worst case of anaemia' in the Daily Mirror's 1913 Royal Academy review, but I digress.  As my Masters thesis was about images of Tennyson's poems, and I am a frequent flyer at Birmingham Museum and Gallery, then I always absolutely loved the first painting, together with Meteyard's other works which are all this similar jewel-colour and beautiful. However, as is always my problem, I got waylaid by a woman, in this case the model for the following painting...

St Cecilia (no date) Sidney Meteyard

...and this one...

Jasmine (no date) Sidney Meteyard

Turns out that this was Kate Muriel Mason Eadie, artist and designer, pupil and second wife to Meteyard and all but forgotten now.  However, she was such a talented powerhouse that she deserves some attention, so off we go.

Angel with Incense Burner (enamel, 1902) Kate M Eadie

Kate Muriel Mason Eadie was born on 4th May 1878 (which would make 2028 her 150th anniversary, not that I'm hinting for a retrospective or anything) in Harborne, South West Birmingham. In 1881, the Eadie family were living on Springfield Street (now modern housing due to the Birmingham Blitz in 1940-1). Her father, Richard, was an engraver employing 6 other people. The family had a live-in maid which implies they were doing very nicely indeed and although Kate was their first born, she was not alone for long, followed swiftly by (deep breath) Maggie Jane (1880-1969), Hetty Fanny (1882-1958), Dorothy Maud (1884-1917), Eleanor (1885-1965), Alan Cuthbert (1888-1961), Norah Elaine (1890-1977) and finally Donald Hamilton (1896-1962).  This is an astonishing almost 20 years work from Fanny Sophia Mason Eadie, mother to all, who impressively managed to not die in childbirth or of exhaustion after 8 children.  The family did well, Richard moving from engraving to being a machinery agent by the turn of the century and then a metal trader by 1911. I wondered if the machinery he traded was to do with his engraving and the metal, precious, as the family lived not far from the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham. As it turned out, his daughter would share his love of metals, although expressed in a slightly different way...

Silver and Aquamarine Necklace (undated) Kate M Eadie

The family's growing wealth can be seen in the addresses they had in the census, for example in 1891 they are living in Linwood Road in Handsworth, neighbours with architects and people living off their own means. The family moved first to Showell Green Lane in Moseley then to Church Road, also in Moseley, where the houses look like this...

Church Road, Moseley. And very nice too.

I half expected that the entire Eadie clan would all troop off to Art School together like a sort of von Trapp family who enamelled rather than sang, but actually it only seems to be Kate who attended the school or at least pursued art with success. Living in Birmingham, the natural choice was to attend Birmingham School of Art, and there she was taught by Sidney Meteyard...

Norah Eadie (1922) Sidney Meteyard

Sidney Meteyard was actually Sid Meatyard, son of a commercial traveller (I was massively hoping for a butcher), born in 1868. He too followed a path of education to Birmingham School of Art, taught by Edward R Taylor, after which he was employed by the school and would remain there as the teacher of Applied Design for the next 45 years. He changed his name to Meteyard, which sounded far more refined, and in 1892 married engraver's daughter, Lizzie Sarah Wilkes Muckley, 11 years his senior. I've heard of having a type but 'must be an engraver's daughter' is awfully specific. Anyway, back to Kate...

Moonstone and Pearl necklace (no date) Kate M Eadie

Kate attended Sidney's Applied Design courses, and possibly was also taught by the Elvis of Arts and Crafts, Arthur Gaskin. In 1902 she won the Owen Jones prize, a national honour awarded to students from Art schools who produce the best designs for furniture, carpets, wallpapers and hangings and that sort of thing. She became especially adept at producing small pieces of great beauty. It's not that she didn't do fine art, in fact a drapery study she exhibited in 1905 at the Birmingham School of Art exhibition was mentioned in the local newspaper with the comment that it 'compels attention'.  In 1904 she exhibited an enamelled plaque of La Belle Dame Sans Merci, and a decade later she produced a miniature entitled Norah (possibly a portrait of her sister, see the above work apparently by Meteyard), seen in the Winter exhibition of the Birmingham School of Art. Her painting Aucassin and Nicolette (1916) was reported as having a 'painstaking finish' but her painting of Saint Catherine the year before was criticised for the choice of model - 'martyrs are made of sterner stuff'.

Mariana (1902) Kate M Eadie

However, it was for her applied art, especially her jewellery that she became known. The Birmingham Daily Post remarked in 1914 that Kate was 'remarkably versatile' in her designs and execution of 2 rings with opals, rubies and sapphires - 'not only well designed but capitally made. Her works range in scale from these to a silver tea caddy, a range which would put many hundreds of working jewellers to the blush.' I personally would love to put people 'to the blush'.

Silver and Opal Pendant (1910) Kate M Eadie

Kate made enough of a name to be one of the artists commissioned to produce art for Queen Mary's Dolls House in 1923.  Her tiny image of St Cecilia was created in watercolour and gold, a tiny masterpiece for a doll's palace.

St Cecilia (c.1923) Kate Eadie

This tiny picture could well be closer linked to Kate's work as an illustrator than her fine art. She tackled many Pre-Raphaelite subjects around this time including The Defence of Guinevere and Fair Rosamund...
Fair Rosamund

The Defence of Guenevere (1916)

Kate's work with illuminated lettering at this time made her an obvious choice when people were creating Rolls of Honour in the aftermath of the First World War.  Together with Sidney, Kate wrote and illuminated the Roll in the Hall of Memory in Birmingham and the Engineer's Roll in the Kitchener's chapel, St Paul's Cathedral. She also worked under the direction of Sir Gilbert Scott on the Roll of Honour in the Holy Trinity Parish and Garrison Church, Windsor, where she executed the design by Sidney of a piece by John Bunyan:

My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage,
and my courage and skill to him that can get it.
My marks and scars I carry with me to be a witness for me
that I have fought his battles who now will be my rewarder.

So he passed over and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.

Kate also worked with Sidney on stained glass windows, however it is more likely than not to be just credited to him, which is frustrating when you are attempting to find a nice picture to stick in at this point.  Here's St Paul's Cookhill memorial window which was 'probably' worked on by Kate (sigh)...

He is Not Here For He Has Risen (1933)

It's also believed that Kate was the model for the female figures. From 1915 onwards, Kate and Sidney shared a studio in the Midlands Building, New Street in Birmingham for obvious reasons. when I think of close artistic relationships, I think my go-to is always Byam Shaw and Fortescue Brickdale...

Byam Shaw and EFB, Art Chums

It is easy to speculate about Kate and Sidney, especially as he stayed with her and her sisters, and then she lived next door to him and his wife, not to mention that less than a year after his wife's death, they married.  However, it really isn't the point or anyone's beeswax, so let's move on.

I don't know why I am surprised that Kate M Eadie is somewhat elusive these days.  She has a number of things working against her, not least is the fact that the Arts and Crafts movement is still pretty under appreciated and unknown outside places where it flourished.  If you asked someone to name any Pre-Raphaelite, these days people would find it easy to name both artists and works of art, or at least describe what it looks like.  However, the Arts and Crafts Movement is sort of forgotten about after its inception in the work of people like Morris and Crane, which is a bloody shame as it coincided with shed-loads (technical term) of women graduating art school and working professionally as artists. Have a flick through any of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition catalogues you can download for free on and you'll see an almost equal distribution of men and women in all the categories, yet the women (with a few notable exceptions) are mostly forgotten. I wonder if Kate had not married Sid in 1940, then she too might have slipped into obscurity. As it is, when she predeceased him in November of 1945, her obituaries led on her famous husband, followed by her work. Sid did not remain alone without her for long, dying barely eighteen months later. He is buried with Kate, in a grave they share with her parents and her sisters.

So, we have a few years to organise Kate's 2028 anniversary exhibition, and I would love to see her jewellery and enamel work on display, not to mention acknowledgement of her work with Sidney on the stained glass windows. It's time for an Arts and Crafts revival and it will be glorious.

My goodness, think of the gift shop...

1 comment:

  1. Dear Kirsty
    Thank you for shining light on a wonderful artist. Her jewellery is stunning and she deserves to be better known and definitely needs that retrospective. I do have a soft spot for the vision in blue that is Meteyard's 'Lady of Shalott' too.
    Best wishes


Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx