This discovery happened when we went to a little Antiques market a couple of weekends ago, in Castle Square in Lincoln. We looked round the stalls and saw lots of things we would like, in an ideal world, of course, but then, on one stall, I noticed this ink drawing in a box, on top of a lot of other papers.
It reminded me a bit of some designs my granny had done when she was at school, and was Art Nouveau in style, which is a style I really like. We dug down into the box and found many more ink drawings and some paintings and works in colour. They all had a number on them (15306) and most had a name and address, M. E. Porter, Sibsey, Boston, Lincs. We picked out a few images we really liked and got ready to pay. The stall holder told us that there were letters in the box too, and that M. E. Porter had undertaken a drawing course in 1916-1917, of which these were all part. She said she had spent a happy evening reading the letters. We were just going to buy the pictures we'd picked out when, on an impulse, we decided it would be a real shame to break up the collection, so we bought the whole boxful.
Having had a really good look through the work once we got home, we found that the illustration course was with The Practical Correspondence College, based in The Strand in London, and that Margaret Porter's tutor was Charles E Dawson, a well-known designer and illustrator of the time. The V & A appear to have several of his designs for Jaeger in their collection, but sadly, no images are available. In the box, however, there are examples of his work as part of the course and a design for Jaeger, which I'll post at a later date.
The course seems to have encompassed a wide variety of styles in order to prepare the student for commercial work. I think that this geometric design is carefully drawn out and well executed - it would all be done on a computer these days, of course!
Another geometric design.
Miss Porter designed several candle shades (for examples of commercial shades click here
) - I liked this one in particular, with its Japanese influence.
A very Art Nouveau design.
This poster reminded me of a Toulouse-Lautrec
image, with the stippling effect for the hair and in the border. Gladys Cooper
(1888-1971) was an actress, initially in the Theatre, but today is probably best known as Mrs Higgins in 'My Fair Lady'. Later in her career, she was excellent at playing manipulative unpleasant older women, such as Bette Davis' mother in 'Now Voyager'.
In 'Now Voyager'.
Gladys Cooper in 1913.
Gladys Cooper with her children. (Photos courtesy of Wikipedia)
We also had a look at the 1901 and 1911 censuses online, to see if we could find out any more about Miss Porter. We found out that she was born in 1892-1893, (depending which information we looked at), her father, Frederick, was a farmer and her mother, Kate and older sister, also Kate, lived at Main Street, Sibsey, Boston. The letters show that she moved into Boston itself at some point and there is one addressed to Woodhall Spa, but whether she lived there, or was just visiting, isn't clear. We think that she died in 1978, in Lincolnshire, but other than that, we don't know any more details about her life. I would like to think that she perhaps worked in commercial art in some way. I'll post more of her work in my next post...