Loan of artwork leads to new discoveries about its creatorfine art
The University has recently loaned one of its oil paintings to the Devon and Exeter Institution. The painting has a local connection as the
sitter was Florence Salter, who came from Colebrooke near
Crediton. Florence was born in 1870. She
and her sister Bertha trained as singers and performed, initially in Devon and later
in Brussels where they received additional singing training and attended
operatic and drama classes. The sisters
performed in front of Royalty and celebrities in both Belgium and France and
received critical acclaim in the French press. They were known as the ‘Devonshire
They eventually returned to London and performed there and throughout the UK. It is believed that somewhere between 1936 and 1941, they returned to Devon, to live in Dawlish. Florence Salter died in 1942. She bequested her portrait to the University of Exeter.
Although the University knew the identity of the sitter for this painting, nothing was known of the artist, Jean Ballantyne. Since lending the painting to the Devon and Exeter Institution, researchers at the Institution have unearthed some fascinating information about the artist.
Jean Ballantyne was born in Edinburgh in 1873. She was the daughter of R M Ballantyne, author of “Coral Island” and was the niece of John Ballantyne, the noted portrait painter. R M Ballantyne was also a proficient painter of watercolours and exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy.
In 1905 Jean married and some time before 1910, she and her husband moved to 111 Elm Park Mansions, Chelsea. By 1910 Florence and Bertha Salter were living at no 108. The 1911 census shows Jean at no 111. She is described as “Painter”. At no 108 Bertha and Florence were recorded as “Professional Singers”.
There are only a very few references to Jean Ballantyne’s
painting. In 1903 The Scotsman reported that she had exhibited at the Royal
Scottish Academy a “carefully-treated portrait of a young lady, Miss Isobel Y Ballantyne,
easy in pose and pleasing in colour” and she exhibited at the RSA again in
1909. In 1907 she exhibited at the “Old Salon” in Paris. Jean died in
1956 in South Croydon.
The University has no record of the date of this painting, but
Florence Salter’s attire, coupled with the information we now know about
painter and the sitter residing only two doors away from each other in 1911, point
to the picture probably being painted around that time.
With thanks to researchers Neville Henderson, Jeremy Lawford and Kevin Jones who carried out research on the sitter and the artist.
Image: copyright the Estate of Jean Ballantyne