A glimpse into Edwardian artistic life

Diana Swann
Diana Swann

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Did you see the 2013 film Summer in February which was based on the true story of the love-triangle between celebrated British painter AJ.Munnings, Major Gilbert Evans and the beautiful Florence Carter-Wood who married Munnings?

On March 8, Portsea Island Decorative and Fine Arts Society had the extraordinary experience of hearing the story from David Evans, son of Major Gilbert.

Now in his late seventies David vividly described the Lamorna Cove and Newlyn colony of artists who gathered in Cornwall around the painter SJ ’Lamorna’ Birch with Alfred Munnings, Laura Knight and several lesser luminaries .

David showed us rare photographs and sketches of this group when they were not yet household names. It was not until after his father’s death that he discovered diaries in which Gilbert described a magical walk with Florence that he likened to ‘summer in February’.

Gilbert’s diaries sketched in the love-story with typical British reticence but were brought to life with touching keepsakes such as a tiny photo, tenderly kept jay and woodcock feathers, which clearly had an emotional significance to Gilbert, scribbled-on restaurant menus, rapid sketches of Florence as well as fine paintings of her riding side-saddle and hidden portraits behind other framed pictures.

Sadly, Gilbert, the epitome of an officer and gentleman, broke his relationship with Florence and vanished from her life.

Three months later she committed suicide. We felt privileged to be allowed such a telling glimpse into Edwardian artistic and social background.

In addition we recently enjoyed an absorbing study day on the origins of the cinema from the earliest days of moving pictures, and on March 23 the society have been invited to a preview of the Portsmouth Museum’s exhibition of the paintings of Edward King which begins at Easter.

King painted Portsmouth scenes during the blitz as well as marine life round Eastney while a permanent patient in St James Hospital.

Our next lecture on April 12 is by Bernard Allen on Discovering Women Artists (1600-1900).

As usual it will be in the Eldon Building on Winston Churchill Avenue. We hope you will meet us there for a coffee from 6pm and be in your seats by 6.45pm for the 7pm lecture.

Visitor donations per lecture are £5, though many prefer to become subscribing members for £40. Ring (023) 9282 0317 for more details.