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.
LL white brush point Scales
Donated to the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand by H. F. V. Scales, 1979
Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand
Title supplied by artist at time of donation, 1979.
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 “Heatherlys [sic]”, led by a Mr Bevis, Wednesday 25th January, 1961 [see Untitled [Loose Leaf Pages] [BC112]] states, “Mr Bevis portrait class at Heatherleys = 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 canvas.”
Heatherley School of Fine Art, London, sometimes referred to as Warwick Square Academy, was founded in 1845 and 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.
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 Scale’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.
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