Monday, January 02, 2017

Paint Monthly - Mary Ellen Best

I was looking through my postcard album recently for something else but came across two postcards I bought from an exhibition I visited in York with a couple of work colleagues.  It must have been more than twenty five years ago now and I don't remember exactly when but it was an exhibition at the York Art Gallery of the works of Mary Ellen Best.


Mary Ellen Best was born in York in 1809, the daughter of a doctor her family lived on Little Blake Street which is close to York Minster.  The family later moved to France but returned to York after her father's death in 1817.  She attended boarding school where she was tutored in art by George Haugh.  Most middle class women of the time were tutored in painting and drawing but Mary achieved success as an artist both in her home town and further afield.

Her most prolific painting was done between the years of 1830 to 1839.  She exhibited in York, London, Leeds and Newcastle and was awarded a silver medal from the London Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture commerce (now the Royal Society of Arts) for the best original painting in oil or watercolour
by persons under the age of twenty one.

She mostly painted interiors and domestic scenes in her own home and the houses of others. The painting above shows  Mary Ellen herself at her work desk in her home in Castlegate, York.  She was also much in demand, mostly by women, for portraits.  It is thought that she painted around 1,500 paintings in total. In 1840 she married Johann Anton Philip Sarg and moved to Germany.  Her painting career seemed to end in about 1851 when Mary inherited quite a lot of money but it is not really known why she did give up painting.

I remember being fascinated with the detail in the paintings.  The way furniture was laid out, the colours, the fabrics and wall coverings. 

Mary Ellen Best died in Darmstadt in Germany in 1891.

Here is a - link - to more of her paintings.

Linking with Barbara at Coastal Ripples for Paint Monthly
follow the link to find more posts.

16 comments:

  1. Her paintings are the sort I love. Looking at all the minute detail of life in the early Victorian era. Fascinating. She was one of a rare breed of woman who managed to succeed in a mans world. Thank you for posting and joining in with Paint monthly. We are a small but select group I feel. B xx

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    1. She certainly did succeed didn't she? I feel her paintings are like looking into a past world, how different things must have been:)

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  2. My goodness, that wallpaper is spectacular, isn't it! A real record of the times. 🙂

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    1. It is quite startling isn't it? I don't know why but I never imagined rooms to be so colourful as they were at times:)

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  3. Interesting, never heard of her, but I like what she paints.

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    1. Glad you like the paintings, Janet:)

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  4. I love all of the domestic details of her work. The colours of the textiles are so vibrant. Like your previous reader, I have not come across her work before.

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    1. It is the colours, textures and patterns that are so alluring in the pictures isn't it? Glad you like her work, the kitchen and tables ones on the link are so full of detail:)

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  5. I have come across her work before and love some of her work, she certainly has an eye for detail.

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    1. She did indeed, she turned ordinary interiors into something spectacular:)

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  6. What superb paintings - love all the colour and detail. I must admit I hadn't heard of her so thanks so much for introducing me to her work. Off to check out your link now :)

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    1. Hope you like the other painting on the link, there are many more of course, I can't remember how many we saw in the exhibition:)

      On a different theme I've seen waxwings!!! Will write a post later today about them:)

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  7. There is a sweetness in the work you show, that draws me in and helps me feel cozy and safe. Thanks for sharing the link, too. xx

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    1. The work room looks particularly warm and cosy doesn't it?:)

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  8. Such detail! I bet she would be an interior designer if she lived today! I love the richness of the colours and of the light and shadows in the paintings too. She was an extremely talented artist. x

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    1. Yes, I can imagine that or perhaps photograph interiors for magazines and etc:)

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