Tuesday 12 December 2023

Tuesday 12th December - Winifred Sandys (1874-1944)

 We are half-way through already! Today is a strange one as I don't normally know my subject's parents, but on this occasion I do.  I even put her Mum in one of my books...

Love's Shadow (1867) Frederick Sandys

Mary Jones Sandys (1845-1920) was one of my Girl Gang as the model of Frederick Sandys, and she had eight children with him, the eldest of whom is our subject today.  Say hello to Winifred Sandys...

Winifred, from the collection of the Delaware Art Museum

I have a lot to love Delaware for - they have a splendid Fanny Cornforth collection - but today I am grateful for their online resources about the splendid Winifred Sandys, eldest daughter of Frederick and Mary, artist, poet, puzzle-setter and someone who obviously appreciates the power of a giant bow, if that photo is anything to go by.  I wondered why the photograph was so dark but then realised that she was in her father's shadow. There is definitely a book and exhibition (I'm available for work) in fathers and daughters of the Victorian period where they daughter ends up grappling with her father's legacy, for better or worse. So, let's go back to the beginning...

Winifred was Fred and Mary's eldest, born 14 January 1874. As you will recall, Fred Sandys had a pretty complex love life - I always think of him whenever anyone is complaining about Rossetti's shenanigans. Winifred was not Frederick's eldest child - he had around four children with Keomi Gray in the 1860s. The only person he seems not to have had children with was his actual wife Georgina, who he never technically divorced. I love a set of divorce papers but those are particularly messy, but I digress.  There is a bit of overlap and grey (or should I say Gray) areas in who was Frederick Sandys' common law wife and when but Keomi married Charles Bonnet in 1875, so she had well and truly gone when Winifred came along.  

Touch (1911-12) Winifred Sandys

I have to say, this does not look like it will be a very long post as there is a disturbing lack of information on Winifred, but I will give you all there is. I wonder if that is because she was working in such a Victorian (and more to the point, her father's) style well into the twentieth century.  And she was a woman, so double strike. Here we have a keynote for women in art of this period - they are not seen as important as men (this seems amplified if they have a man in the family in the same career who is famous) and so not so much is written and therefore the weight of the writing becomes the weight of their worth. We're not idiots, I think we can all agree that the worth of an artist, or in fact anyone in history, is not linked to how many critics or biographers think they are important. Oh dear, this one feels like it's going to be a ranty post. I apologise.

Winifred's first census is a bit of a puzzler, as she, Mildred, Algernon and Maud (her brother and sisters) are all staying at the home of Alphons Beck.  Winifred and Mildred appear to be around the same age as Beck's daughter Margaret, but all the Sandys children are sporting the surname 'Neville'.  That was the name that Mary Sandys adopted as her surname when she passed herself off as a widow to explain why she had children, but wasn't married to the already-married Fred Sandys.  The same is true in 1891, when even Fred Sandys became Frederick Neville, which seems insane or massively feminist of him. I'm opting for the former.

Hearing (1911-12)

The turn of the century brought a bit of sanity to the situation, when Winifred Sandys, her parents and brother Algernon are all sporting the right surname and boarding together in Kensington.  The rest of the children are living in Pevensey in West Sussex, and 17 year old Guy Sandys is the head of the household 'living on own means'.  That is a puzzle indeed.

Olive Margaret Slaughter (1899) Frederick Sandys

Frederick was always proud of Winifred's talents.  She won a honourable mention in The Studio award for a window Bill in no more that 3 colours for her design 'Clive' (another surname her mother used) in 1894. She not only drew and painted but also wrote poetry, and her father included her poem 'Daffodils'  around the frame of one of his pictures (I wondered if it was the portrait of Oliver Margaret Slaughter as that has a load of daffs in it.)  She also copied his paintings in miniature, for example The White Mayde of Avenel from c.1902 which is even smaller than one of Frederick's preparatory drawings...

Sketch for The White Ladie of Avenel (c.1902) Frederick Sandys (25x33cm)

The White Mayde of Avenel (after 1902) Winifred Sandys (20x15cm)

Frederick died in 1904 when Winifred was 30, which must have been a strain on the family finances.  Mary organised her children into a cottage industry, making arts and crafts that could be sold to support them all. It must have seemed a godsend to them when Samuel Bancroft jnr came looking for Pre-Raphaelite memorabilia (as it was for Fanny Cornforth) and Winifred started a correspondence with him and he in turn bought Fredericks work and became a patron to Winifred. The Delaware Art Museum page on Winifred is marvellous as not a lot of her art seems to be available on the internet otherwise.

Samuel Bancroft Jnr (1909) Winifred Sandys

I think this is my favourite portrait of Sam Bancroft, a miniature on ivory, which seems to capture his generosity and humour.  I like to think he was meant to be looking forward, but then spotted a Pre-Raphaelite painting he fancied.

George Meredith (c.1909) Winifred Sandys

If I was feeling a bit 'pop-psychologist', I might venture that Winifred strikes me as a woman in search of a father figure, but that might be because she was surrounded by such towering personalities that it was impossible not to succumb to paternal influences. I don't mean anything dodgy by this, but she does seem to have had good and strong relationships with many older men. Her wreath at George Meredith's funeral was reported on in the news as it carried the poetic message 'bay for victory; roses for love; pansies for thoughts.' I am also struck by how neither Bancroft or Meredith are looking at her in their portraits.  It's very artistic but I now need to see if any of her portraits of men are looking at us. Did she feel ignored by them? Was she a big fan of The Death of Chatterton?

Her own career started to take off in 1910, when she was part of an exhibition of the members of the Little Salon of Art, Life and Literature at the Gallery van Brakel. The artists involved were all seen as young 'dilettantes' but Winifred's painting Autumn was mentioned in the Queen magazine - 'so good in colour and pattern that one would urge her to submit to the severe discipline of training in drawing.' At the Royal Academy that year, she appeared for possibly the first time with a portrait of Sydney Gordon Roberts Esq and a picture entitled The Blue Turban.

In 1911, Winifred is recorded as living with her mother and sisters Ruth and Gertrude in Hogarth Road by Earls Court. For the Royal Academy she had painted Gold and White and gave her address as Audrey Road on Campden Hill.  She followed that up in 1912 with a portrait of her sister Gertrude...

Gertrude Sandys (1906) Winifred Sandys

Gertrude 'Girlie' Sandys (c.1910) Winifred Sandys

Winifred actually did a few images of her sister Gertrude, also known as 'Girlie', who seems to be remembered as the prettiest of the Sandys girls (which is appalling but very Victorian).  As it happens, Gertrude was also the subject of Winifred's 1913 RA piece too, coinciding with Gertrude's marriage to Lionel Crane, son of Walter.  I see in various places that they married 'against the wishes of her parents' but seeing as Frederick was dead and Mary would have been grateful for one less mouth to feed I wonder if the objections came from the Crane side. The newspapers, however, loved it - The Sheffield Daily Telegraph went with 'A Pre-Raphaelite Engagement' and the following gush of sentiment 'In nothing was the Pre-Raphaelite movement in English art more notable than in the life-long comradeship of its leaders,' which is one way to announce an engagement. It obviously continued to the wedding day when the Daily Citizen reported 'an interesting wedding took place in Kensington on Saturday when Miss Gertrude Sandys was married to Mr Lionel Francis Crane. The bride is the daughter of the late Frederick Sandys, a friend of Rossetti, and a painter and draughtsman of high repute. The bridegroom is the son of Mr Walter Crane, black and white artist, decorator, engraver, poet and Socialist.' Come on now, don't envoke the name of Rossetti at a wedding, that can only end in tears.

Gertrude, 1918 from the Tatler

The above picture of Gertrude was featured in the Tatler in an article entitled 'The Daughter in Law of a Famous Artist' with no mention of Frederick Sandys, which is rude.

The Cranes were a complicated family, art aside. Lionel's mother was the artist Mary Frances Andrews (of course she doesn't get a mention in the newspaper reports) who walked out in front of a train the year after her son's wedding. Walter died the year after and Lionel's brother Lancelot (excellent name) died in the Great War in 1918. In the midst of this death came Gertrude and Lionel's son, Anthony...

Gertrude and Anthony Crane (c.1917)

Excuse the meander into Crane family business, it will make sense in a moment.  It seems that Winifred was very much attached to the Crane family, which makes sense as she was so close to her sister. I found a beautiful set of cards online that Winifred had hand-painted for Walter Crane to keep in his copy of The Canterbury Tales because she knew he loved it so much...

Cards from The Canterbury Tales

When Walter Crane died, Winifred published a poem for him:

Come hither, soft, and with you bring
The darling nurslings of the Spring - 
Pale hyacinths, white tulips strew,
Primroses, violets, wet with dew,
March daffodils, and lilies fair,
Neat willow-buds, and almond rare,
Anemones, fresh laurel too,
And sacred bay, all are his due - 
These hither bring, for they express
The tender grief and soothfastness
Of all the earthly babes that here
Are left to mourn their painter dear.

In terms of her art, Winifred did a series of miniatures based on the five senses, but it is hard to date her other images, if you can find them.  I have no doubt that she continued to work at least until 1920 when her beloved Gertrude died of influenza. Winifred moved to support four year old Lionel, which led to her marrying her sister's husband (which, to be fair, is really Pre-Raphaelite). She then became Mrs Lionel Crane which the newspapers really found interesting.

Seeing (1911-12)

I'm afraid that is almost all I have except I found an interesting puzzle that she set in the newspapers in 1915.  It was called 'A Geographical Square' and the clues are - 'A town in Tuscany. A river in Germany. A lake in the North of Scotland. A river in Italy.' Answer at the end...

As a side note, can I just say how grumpy I am that the British Museum (who have their own problems at the moment, I admit) have a vast amount of Walter Crane material that they purchased from Mrs Lionel Crane in 1933 (she gave more in 1936) and the only details about her on the website is that she was the daughter-in-law of Walter Crane.  I can hear the blessed Mr Walker saying that a documentation assistant isn't going to know that Mrs Lionel Crane is also the artist Winifred Sandys, but I would therefore encourage museum websites to have a place where you can suggest additions to a record.  I would also suggest that museums are given more money so that they can pay documentation assistants to add information like this because it adds dimension and context.

Anyway, Winifred and Lionel lived on to the 1939 register (the bloggers friend) and there they are in old age, living in Twickenham, Lionel, an architect and Winifred, an artist. Anthony worked at Bletchley and received an MBE. Lionel died in February 1943 with Winifred following less than a year later at the beginning of 1944. She left her money to her nephew/step-son, Anthony.

Taste (1911-12)

The answer to Winifred's puzzle is:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Kirsty. That was a fascinating family dynamic. I remember going to the V & A and loving some of Walter Crane's work - blues and golds with a slightly oriental feeling. I think Winifred 's work is beautiful - her use of colour (again - obviously a thing with me) and her delicacy. Her figures all have such wonderful hair too. Her version of the White Mayde is particularly striking and her drawings of Gertrude are stunning. I am very fond of a good drawing. I wonder what happened to her later...I hope she continued with her art.
    Best wishes


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