A Painting Mystery Solved and a Victorian Woman Artist Revealed

Recently, a client contacted me with a painting he had inherited from his father that he knew nothing about except that it was very old, likely “over 100 years”. He asked if I would be able to do some research on it and although I happily agreed, (I do love a good research project!) I must admit that my hopes of attributing it to a particular artist were very low. Upon receiving a photograph of the painting, I was immediately enchanted by the soft and delicate features of the central female figure who sat gazing longingly with hands clasped by a window. The scene reminded me of some of the works by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of English painters who were active in the second half of the 19th Century and went on to influence a slew of other well-known British artists well into the 20th Century. As such, I agreed to consign the painting and have it delivered to our premises for more research.

MARY EVELINA KINDON (British, 1849-1919)
Elaine with the Shield of Lancelot 
oil on canvas
signed lower left: M. E. Kindon

When the work arrived, my first port of call was to look more closely for that elusive signature and much to my delight there were the vague remnants of red paint in the lower left-hand corner which could just be made out to read “M. F. K…” or was it “M. E. K…” either way, though the last name was illegible, it was a start. My second step was to examine the back of the painting where I found two paper labels adhered to the frame, one from a framer and one which I’m sure would have given me the information I was seeking had it not been so badly blackened and damaged over time that it was no longer legible. The label from the framer was partly intact and I could just make out the company name, “R J Stannard”. After a little online research, I found that R J Stannard, Picture Frame Manufacturer, was active in London from 1854-1907, and this confirmed that the rough time frame I had placed on the painting was likely correct and that this was the original frame the painting was housed in. As such, I allowed my hopes to grow, but only a little.

Through some more online sleuthing I discovered that a Rupert Bunny painting, Madame Melba (c. 1902) currently housed at the National Gallery of Victoria and painted during his time in London, happened to also carry the same framing label. This led to what can only be described as a deep rabbit hole of research which began when I found out that Bunny had exhibited several times at the Royal Academy in London and that they have now digitised all their exhibition catalogues dating back to 1769. Wondering if perhaps some of the artists who exhibited together used the same framers, I started picking catalogues from the years Bunny was in London and trawling through the lists, over 70 pages per catalogue, of every artist that exhibited in that year. In the catalogue from 1895, on page 16, I could not quite believe my eyes when I found an artist listed by the name of M. E. Kindon.

Mary Evelina Kindon (1849-1919) was a British watercolourist and painter of genre scenes, urban landscapes, and domestic scenes. Her distinctive signature, found often in red paint, and particular proclivity for painting women in white dresses gave me no doubt that this painting could safely be attributed to her. Although nothing is known of her personal life, she exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Suffolk Street Gallery and the Institute of Painters in Watercolours in London as well as abroad at the Société des Artistes Francais, Paris and the Paris Salon. Her work can be found in the Bushey Museum and Art Gallery, Bushey, UK, and now in The Collector’s Auction on 21 September at Leonard Joel, Sydney!

MADELEINE NORTON / Decorative Arts and Fine Art Specialist, Sydney

Banner Image: The label on the back of artwork framed by R J Stannard, Picture Frame Manufacturer

July 2021