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Artists

Recording images of St Helena

Art has no function. It is not necessary. It has nothing to do with what anyone wants you to do or wants it to be, nothing but you and itself.
Gertrude Stein

Many artists have turned their talents to making a visual record of St Helena

 

Artists

Below: William John Burchell, 1805-1810 • G H Bellasis, 1814-1815 • Denzil Ibbetson, 1815-1823 • JE Fowler, 1863 • Erich Mayer, 1900-1902 • F. Oswell Jones, 1949-1959 • Roland Svensson, 1968 • Iris Linsi, 1994 • Others discussed elsewhere • Even more…

Some points about this page:

See also our Photography page for past and present photographers.

William John Burchell, 1805-1810

William John Burchell produced many drawings and watercolours.

He was engaged on St Helena by The East India Company as botanist & schoolmaster from 1805 to 1810. He clearly spent a lot of his time here making drawings and watercolours, which provide an invaluable record of the island just before Napoleon arrived. His images are Copyright © the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and used with permission{4}.

Brooke Hill
Brooke Hill

Redwood
Redwood

Plantation House
Plantation House

‘ Head School ’, 1810
Head School’, 1810

Sandy Bay
Sandy Bay

Jamestown Barracks {1}
Jamestown Barracks{1}

 

G H Bellasis, 1814-1815

All we know about George Hutchins Bellasis is his name and that in 1815 he published ‘Six Views of St Helena’, drawn during a stay of eight months on the island. The Book also contains some information about the island, but not enough for him to qualify as one of our Historians of St Helena.

#1: From the sea
#1: From the sea

#2: The Roads
#2: The Roads

#3: The Castle Terrace
#3: The Castle Terrace

#4: Plantation House
#4: Plantation House

#5: The Friar
#5: The Friar

#6: Sandy Bay
#6: Sandy Bay

 

Note that many of these images contain Slaves working, as would have been normal at that time.

Denzil Ibbetson, 1815-1823

Denzil Ibbetson also produced various drawings and watercolours, but he also made a contribution to the Theatre.

Ibbetson was born on 8th July 1785 in Leicester, England, and joined the army in 1808. He was one of a handful of British Army officers who were on St Helena for the full six-year period of Napoleon’s exile. He arrived in 1815 with Napoleon aboard the HMS Northumberland, and left in 1823, two years after the Emperor’s death. He was a talented amateur artist, famous for his drawings of Napoleon, and was also the chief commissary officer on St Helena. When Ibbetson was not feeding the army or making drawings of Napoleon he was often to be found performing on the stage of the St Helena Amateur Theatre. As well as acting in 43 plays between 1816 and 1823, he was also theatre manager and the accountant. He returned to the UK in 1823 where he died in 1857 and was buried at Hove, near Brighton.

Napoleon on the HMS Northumberland
Napoleon on the HMS Northumberland

Napoleon’s arrival, watercolour, 1815
Napoleon’s arrival, watercolour, 1815

Mount Pleasant, Sandy Bay
Mount Pleasant, Sandy Bay

 

In 2010 Denzil Ibbetson’s diary was discovered in New Zealand (where his son emigrated in 1864). By some readings it records that in 1815, even while aboard the HMS Northumberland heading for exile, Napoleon was still imagining himself invading and conquering Britain with an army of 200,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry, saying he believed the people of Britain would welcome him. The Daily Mirror UK ‘newspaper’ thought this story worth printing (labelled ’HISTORY’), as did ABC News Australia and CBS in America. John Tyrrell, however, disputes this interpretation, believing the defeated former-Emperor was merely re-living his past plans, not setting out new ones (see his posting http://johntyrrell.blogspot.com /2010/06/ napoleon-plotted-invading-england-after.html). So: nice headline but probably just another Napoleon myth.

JE Fowler, 1863

JE Fowler published ‘Views of St Helena’, published by Day & Son, which in addition to an interesting collection of lithographs (at least one of which was taken from a photograph by John Isaac Lilley) also contained ‘Notes On The Natural History’ which make interesting reading.

Porteous House
Porteous House

Longwood New House
Longwood New House

Napoleon’s Tomb
Napoleon’s Tomb

The Briars
The Briars

Oak Bank
Oak Bank

 

There are Fowlers today on St Helena, there was at least one serving in The St Helena Regiment and a Mr E. Fowler is listed in 1827 as a slave owner. In 1715, according to the Records, one Jepthah Fowler made an official complaint because his wife and a man called Andrew Berg had beaten him. We do not know if any of these are relatives of JE Fowler.

Erich Mayer, 1900-1902

Erich Mayer was one of the Boer Prisoners (1900-1902). He returned to South Africa after the war where he lived for the rest of his life. His paintings of the South African Landscape still make good money at Auction.

He made some paintings and drawings of St Helena during his time here but they do not get the same recognition as his later South African works. They are not readily available on the Internet. The one image we have below is an illustrated map of St Helena, created in collaboration with another prisoner:

Map by Capt. De Framond, prisoner of war, sketches by E. Mayer-Vrede {3}, PoW.
‘Map by Capt. De Framond, prisoner of war, sketches by E. Mayer-Vrede{3}, PoW.’{a}

Camp life
Camp life{b}

Camp Entertainment {2}
Camp Entertainment{2}{b}

 

More at www.johansborman.co.za/artist-biographies/mayer-erich. Our thanks to Robin Woodruff for alerting us to Erich.

F. Oswell Jones, 1949-1959

Frederick Oswell Jones was notable because of the many paintings he made of St Helena in the 1950s. He was born in 1873 in Peterborough, UK, the son of David Darby Jones and Blanche Alexina M. (nee Oswell). He arrived here at the end of World War 2 with no particular aim in mind, apparently living off his Army pension, and married Fainbridge (‘Fanny’) Ward, a local woman, in 1949. For recreation, and possibly to supplement his income, he took to painting local scenes, some of which are shown below. He painted an entire set of ‘Stations of the Cross’ images for the island’s Roman Catholic Church.

Apparently at one time he used the old Customs shed as a studio. It is thought he may have created João da Nova’s Seal, though probably for amusement rather than with any deliberate intention to mislead.

After Fanny’s death he left St Helena, sailing on 20th June 1959, and returned to the UK where he died in 1969. He wrote about himself in 1960.

Lower Market Street
Lower Market Street

The Baptist Church
The Baptist Church

Castle Entrance
Castle Entrance

Saturday morning, Jamestown
Saturday morning, Jamestown

Former studio
Former studio

 

Roland Svensson, 1968

Roland Svensson was a Swedish artist best known for his many paintings of Sweden, including the Stockholm Archipelago. He visited in 1968 and made several paintings of island scenes, which because of his fame are considered quite collectable.

Sandy Bay & Lot
Sandy Bay & Lot

Grand Parade & The Arch
Grand Parade & The Arch

Plantation House
Plantation House

Landing Steps
Landing Steps

Jamestown from the sea
Jamestown from the sea

Jonathan the tortoise
Jonathan the tortoise

 

Iris Linsi, 1994

Iris Linsi was St Helena-born, a poet and painter who moved to Switzerland. During a 4-month stay on St Helena in 1994, her first visit since her childhood, she held a small exhibition of her works, many of which are shown below{c}.

Iris Linsi: Heart Shaped Waterfall

Iris Linsi: Longwood House

Iris Linsi: High Knoll Fort

Iris Linsi: Mount Pleasant

Iris Linsi: James Bay

Iris Linsi: South West Point

Iris Linsi: Coastal Rocks

 

Others discussed elsewhere

Some of our more notable artists are discussed elsewhere on Saint Helena Island Info. These include:

Even more…

There are some about whom we have little data. If you can help please contact us.

Below: Ozias Humphreys • J. Graham • Hubert Cornish • Rolf Weijburg

Ozias Humphreys

In 1795 Ozias Humphreys produced a drawing of the old drawbridge across the moat in Jamestown; the old pre-1832 access at the Wharf end, around where the Customs House is now. He also drew the wharf crane and gate and the watering place (note the round-topped water cistern, later the customs shed, featured as the page image on our Historic Buildings page).

Drawbridge, 1795
Drawbridge, 1795{d}

Wharf/Crane, 1795
Wharf/Crane, 1795{d}

Watering place, 1795
Watering place, 1795{d}

 

 

J. Graham

J. Graham produced Lithographs in or around 1830. These views, in an album in the Museum of St Helena, are taken from 22 Lithographic Plates.

 

Hubert Cornish, St. James’ Church, 1798
Hubert Cornish, St. James’ Church, 1798

Hubert Cornish

Hubert Cornish (1757-1823) is another single-image artist, known for his 1798 watercolour of St. James’ Church. The image has the note The houses are very neat, stuccoed smooth and painted. The Troops are going down to relieve the guard. The large branches like feathers are branches of the Cocoa Tree.

 

Rolf Weijburg, Jamestown
Rolf Weijburg, Jamestown{c}

Rolf Weijburg, ‘Oil Drum Recycling’, 1989
Rolf Weijburg, ‘Oil Drum Recycling’, 1989

Rolf Weijburg

Rolf Weijburg was a Dutch artist who travelled around the South Atlantic visiting the Islands. His colour-etchings from St Helena are part of a series called ‘L’Afrique Périphérique’, with around 70 images in total. The example shown (right) shows his sense of humour and the one (left) is another remarkable piece of work - part map, part painting and part tourist brochure!

More at www.weijburg.nl.

 

Laugh at funny Artists humour - LOL

Credits:
{a} Historical Papers Research Archive, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg{4}{b} Robin Woodruff{c} John Ekwall, originator of the site www.sthelena.se.{d} Ozias Humphreys

Footnotes:
{1} Now Pilling Primary School. Also shows the Upper Theatre (right).{2} The sign reads Tot Nut en Vermaak, which translates as For Work & Entertainment.{3} The addition of ‘Vrede’ to his signature, translating to ‘Peace’, ‘Quiet’ or ‘non-belligerence’, is curious…{4} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.

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