Seated Woman, Warwick School of Art, London

Portrait of a seated woman, hands clasped on her lap. She wears a red hat, red necklace, pink top, black shawl and a patterned skirt.

1959 1961
Object type
Medium and materials
oil on canvas
Place Made
London, England

LL white brush point Scales

Verso Upper Centre label 513

Verso Upper Centre (not in artist's hand) pencil 34mm

Verso UL label artwork details

Verso UR label Alexander Turnbull Library

Verso Lower Centre two framer's labels


Donated to the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand by H. F. V. Scales, 1979

Condition Report

Framed with glass.

Copyright Licence
Courtesy Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Reference no. G-513
Current Collection

Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand

Current Location

Wellington, New Zealand

General notes

Title supplied by artist at time of donation, 1979.

Warwick School of Art refers to Warwick Square Academy, otherwise known as Heatherley School of Fine Art, London, England. Founded in 1845, it is one of the oldest independent art colleges in London. It is also one of the few art schools in Britain that focuses on portraiture and figurative painting, sculpture and print-making. Heatherley was located at 33 Warwick Square, Pimlico, London, in the former house of the Scottish artist, Iain McNab, who founded the Grosvenor School of Modern Art on the premises. In 1940 the Grosvenor School merged with Heatherley.

Alexander Turnbull Library catalogue gives date c.1970.

In conversation with M. de Lange, 1984, Flora Scales explained, “this painting depicts a middle aged actress...done at Heatherleys.”

When Scales was asked by B. de Lange in 1984 whether she valued any of her paintings above others, this was the work she remembered as giving some degree of satisfaction. 

A letter from John Walton, Principal, Heatherley School of Fine Art, London, England, to Patience Tennent, 1983, gives the dates of Flora Scales's registration there as October 1959 - July 1960. It is possible, however, that she attended occasionally in other years for particular purposes. For example, A note in the artist’s hand from a Portrait Class at Heatherley School of Fine Art, London, England, led by a Mr Bevis, Wednesday 25th January, 1961 [see Related images 1, Untitled [Loose Leaf Pages] [BC112]], “Mr. Bevis Portrait Class at Heatherly's [sic] = mark clearly position of prominent bones on the face - Important sign good composition of portrait or figure on canvas - always make small sketch in pencil carefully before proceeding to paint on the canvas.”

Letter to B. de Lange from artist and actress Ellinore Ginn (1915, Canada - 1995, New Zealand), Titahi Bay, Wellington, New Zealand, 1 January 1989, “I attended Heatherley’s for part of the war years – it was a semi private school. Sometimes known as the Warwick Square Academy, [it was] open to approximately 200 pupils, with selected work from the aspirants who had to present a natural flair for colours and design and the selection and judgement therefore was the task of the school principal, who was himself a member of the Royal Academy. The course of study was 4 years.

There were about 6-8 art tutors, 3 from America and 3 or 4 from London. Sir Frederick Whiting was the master of a stylised form of painting and portraiture generally. He was of the ‘old school’. On the other hand there was a modernist named Iain McNab who impressed me more than anyone else…he supported cubism and interesting conté linear effects with the aid of conté, charcoal and pencil. Two American Masters from New York taught about canvas stretching, oils, varnishing and palette knife work…and, once a month, an art critic came to destroy or uplift us upon seeing our work.

The school was a gingerbread style of old house with 3 floors, [a] large mezzanine floor, and [a] bright basement for taps and brushes and easels etc and smocks and ? etc.

Of course I had to leave London. It was on the suggestion of another painter, Gwen Knight, after seeing my drawings in London that I applied for the school and happily was accepted…There were morning classes, afternoon classes and evening classes divided into an interesting syllabus. The fees were paid by my mother in law for me.”

Further notes on Heatherley School of Fine Art by Ginn can be found here: https://www.ellinoreginn.co.nz/heatherleys.htm

Excerpt from Toss Woollaston's essay for B. de Lange, 1992, referring to Scales's late portraits of the 1980s, “Gone is the mastery of expression in the painting – dated 1960s – of a “Seated Woman” [Seated Woman, Warwick School of Art, London [BC036]]. She is wearing a red beret and a dark jacket. Her hands are folded in front of her. The whole atmosphere is of the artist’s social superiority to the sitter. It is not insisted upon, consciously perhaps, but it is there...”

Perhaps Woollaston felt that the expressive elements of this portrait; the close frontal pose, the extraordinary choice of colour to highlight her face and the contrasts of intense red and green reveal an emotionally engaged response to the sitter which he had not seen before in her work.

Used as illustration

Flora Scales, The Suter Te Aratoi o Whakatū, Nelson, 2018, pg 52 (colour)


Essay by Toss Woollaston, 1992, reproduced with the kind permission of the Toss Woollaston Trust, May 2021

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