“Painting was her refuge, her passion, her reason - her intelligence”1
Flora Scales was born in Wellington, New Zealand on the 24 May, 1887. She was the second-born, eldest daughter in a family of five children. Her two younger brothers died in WW1 and her elder brother remained in England after the war.
Flora Scales, ‘Lass’ or ‘Lassie’ as she was called by the family, was brought up with the best of everything lavished upon her: a progressive education, a place in the society of the most influential families in Wellington and, always, a ready recognition of her precocious artistic talent which was then focused on drawing and painting the animals she loved so intensely. She was sent to London in 1908, at the age of 21, to study at the ultra-conservative W. Frank Calderon School of Animal Painting for three years, which, by stint of winning a “studentship” she turned into four. The students attended life, portrait and composition classes as well as indoor and outdoor sessions with the animals and in the summer there were highly organised classes in the Norfolk countryside. Apparently Scales was the only New Zealand artist to enrol at Calderon’s school and for her it was a richly rewarding experience. The technical knowledge and the accuracy of observation and draughtmanship instilled in the academic tradition, provided the strong foundation on which her future development was based.
These were years of turbulence in the English art world largely due to Roger Fry’s Post-Impressionist exhibitions of 1910 and 1912 at the Grafton Galleries in London, England. It would be interesting to know if Calderon, like Professor Henry Tonks at London’s Slade School of Fine Art, discouraged his students from viewing these exhibitions which some, in tune with Virginia Woolf, felt had irrevocably changed the British art world. Unfortunately no such details are available to date.