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Gertrude Demain Hammond

England

Born: London, England 1862

Died: Worthing, Sussex, England 21 Jul 1953

Biography

The daughter of a banker’s clerk, Gertrude Demain Hammond studied at the Lambeth School of Art and at the Royal Academy Schools. Her elder sister Christine ‘Chris’ Demain Hammond was an accomplished and successful pen illustrator, and her younger brother Percy Edward Demain Hammond became an artist in stained glass.

From the 1890s Hammond worked as a black-and-white illustrator, establishing a self-supporting career that continued after her marriage in 1898. She contributed to a variety of London journals such as The Yellow Book, and illustrated literary works including those of Edmund Spenser, Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Her paintings, chiefly in watercolour, are portraits, literary subjects and interior genre scenes. She exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, to which she was elected in 1896.

The many watercolours she made for books formed the basis of her exhibition entries. April. Youth’s spring-tribute was exhibited at the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1906 before being dispatched to Christchurch later the same year for the New Zealand International Exhibition where it was shown in the watercolour section of the ‘British Government exhibit’.

This vivid watercolour illustrates the sonnet Youth’s spring-tribute from the long sequence of poems, The house of life, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, published after many revisions in 1881. The sonnet is a celebration of youthful sensual desire, and describes the poet-lover’s passionate adoration of his beloved. It opens with the couple reclining together in a glade: ‘On this sweet bank your head thrice sweet and dear I lay, and spread your hair on either side, And see the newborn wood flowers bashful-eyed Look through the golden tresses here and there.’

Although the watercolour was not destined for an illustrated edition of Rossetti’s poetry, it was nonetheless reproduced in a publication of an altogether different kind – an Edwardian lady’s birthday book published by A & C Black of London in 1905. The beautiful birthday book featured 12 colour plates for each month reproducing watercolours by Hammond, replete with decorative borders, quotes by famous writers and blank spaces where the owner could enter and remember birthdays.

Hammond’s vision – like that of numerous painter-illustrators around the turn of the century – was shaped by the romantic, medievalising style inherited from the Pre-Raphaelites.

Adapted from Victorian watercolours, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 2017

Other works by Gertrude Demain Hammond