The picture, Champery 1885, recently bought locally is currently on display at Old Bank Antiques in Royal Wootton Bassett. Marked for an Ethel MJ Smyth (initialled and dated by hand to verso, June 9, 1885), it shows Champery in Switzerland with mountains in the background including its bell tower which still exists today.
It’s possible this is an unknown work by the well-known Suffragette Ethel Smyth who was a great friend (and possible lover) of Emmeline Pankhurst and was also the first female UK composer to be honoured as a dame. She was famous for her opera The Wreckers.
She was a militant suffragette and also composed the anthem of the women’s Suffrage movement, The March Of The Women.
This is potentially very exciting. The painting is not an accomplished work of art and we’ve been unable to find readily available information about whether or not this amazing woman also enjoyed watercolour painting. However, it would not be unusual for a lady of that era to dabble in watercolours.
The other intriguing fact is that she is known to have had an affair with a man called Henry Brewster who, during this period, lived close to Champery in a place called Nyon on the shores of Lake Geneva. The affair ended in 1885 when Ethel returned to England.
It’s believed Henry was her only male lover as most of her relationships were with women.
We are appealing for any information which may shed some light on the picture and its origins. It was bought from a local auction room in a job lot at a recent sale.
Jon White and Steve Bucknell
Old Bank Antiques
Royal Wootton Bassett
Anyone who can shed any light on this mystery watercolour can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org