Behind every good portrait a story waits to be told, and very often the story becomes lost with the passage of time. However, this delightful, loosely painted oil sketch is literally worth a thousand words. The sitter is “Gerty”, or Gertrude Mary Johns to give her full title, a young girl from Paul, near Newlyn, who sat several times for Forbes. In this painting Gerty would appear to be aged around 13, which would date the work to circa 1910 as she was born in August 1896. Gerty and her sister Gwendoline lost their mother, Charlotte Johns, some time before 1901, at which time the census reveals that they lived with their grandparents, Richard and the exotically named Africana Johns. The sisters were still living with their grandparents in 1911, when their address was given as Lynwood Cottages, Mousehole. As a child, Gertrude delivered milk before school from Mousehole to Paul using the traditional wooden 'yoke' and bucket. On seeing her portrait later in her life she commented that she was sad that they had been too poor to own starched white aprons like other girls in her school. She was a sitter in several of Stanhope Forbes' paintings.
This charming portrait clearly shows that the young Gertrude was a restless sitter! Her attitude would seem to suggest that she was a reluctant model and probably had other things on her mind. The sketchy nature of the painting adds to the charm, and it is likely to have been an unfinished work which remained in the Forbes studo until it was eventually sold to a Mr Richards, a pupil of the artist. Some years later (16th November 1974) it was sold by David Messum Fine Paintings, Beaconsfield, to a private collector for the sum of £285.00 (gallery label verso and original receipts included).
Getrude left her home for over 40 years but eventually returned to Paul, where she died in 1975.
Oil on canvas -
16ins x 24ins -