Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Stella and her husband, Montagu Marks, New York c.1920

Stella Lewis was born in a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, the third of four children. Her father, James, worked as a Civil Servant.  

She always wanted to be an artist from the age of 11 and trained as an oil painter under British born artist and art gallery director, Bernard Hall and the legendary Australian artist, Fred McCubbin at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. There she met her husband-to-be, fellow artist Montagu ‘Monty’ Marks (1890-1972).  Monty had left school at 11 and worked as a scenic artist before commencing formal training.

With her pretty looks and Monty’s handsome, dashing manner, they made a striking couple. They travelled to England in 1911 to further their art studies and experience life in London and Paris, and were married in London. Stella painted her first miniature in 1912, having been goaded to do so by Monty and his best friend, fellow artist Penleigh Boyd. She soon earned commissions and began to make a name for herself, both in full-scale work and with miniatures. She signed her work Stella Lewis Marks or Stella. L. Marks.  

©Stella Marks' Estate 2017

This is Stella’s pencil sketch for her first miniature. Unfortunately the whereabouts of the actual miniature, or whether it still exists is unknown.

By the start of the First World War in 1914, the couple were living in America and Monty served as a Fighter Pilot in the Royal Flying Corp. 

In 1916 Stella became an Associate Member of the Royal Miniature Society, London, at the time the youngest member to join the Society and only the second Australian artist to do so.  By then she was painting miniatures of many of the most well known names in American Society and being exhibited at the American Society of Miniature Painters, the National Association of Portrait Painters and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. The Duke of Connaught, Governor General of Canada, commissioned Stella to paint a miniature of his daughter, Princess Patricia.

©Stella Marks' Estate 2017

Here is a sketch she made in 1916 prior to painting the miniature of H.R.H. Princess Patricia. Reproductions of the miniature were sold for the Canadian Red Cross in WW1. By some accounts 30,000 copies were sold to raise money for Canadian soldiers by the year’s end. [source: 10th December 1916 Detroit Free Press]

Below are four examples of Stella's work in America.

©Stella Marks' Estate 2017

Mrs. Margaret Batten aged 84 painted in 1916.

©Stella Marks' Estate 2017

Knox Studebaker Ulrich painted in 1917
Exhibited at the Royal Academy 1931
He was a member of the famous American automobile family.

©Stella Marks' Estate 2017

Mrs Warbuton painted in 1921
She was later to marry William Kissam Vanderbilt II, whose mother, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II, once remarked to Stella, 'Your miniatures are more like Cosway's than any other I have seen'.

©Stella Marks' Estate 2017

This miniature painted in 1924, is of Stella's own daughter, Patricia, aged three.
It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1936.

In 1934, the couple moved to England and Stella continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy until 1940. Monty was working as General Manager of London Film Productions and became well known in the glamorous world of films and celebrities and his painting was just for pleasure. The couple became celebrities themselves and Stella was the subject of many articles and interviews internationally. In many of these articles she was a strong advocate for  portrait miniatures to be treated as an art form on a par with larger works in oil.

“A good miniature must have all the drawing composition and knowledge that goes to make up a large portrait. It is in fact a portrait in watercolour.....The beauty is in the transparency of colour.” 
The Dominion, February 11th 1938

“Miniature painting seems to be coming back into its own again and I am very glad of that, for it is a beautiful art form…… It requires a knowledge of handling details and an ability to wield the brush in strong, sure, swift strokes. One most know exactly the shape of the impression it is going to leave and the precise tone and colouring to be obtained”
'The Return of the Miniature', The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, March 3rd 1917

In an interview with an Australian newspaper in 1937, she, perhaps controversially, compared the difference between the American and British market for miniatures at that time. She observed that Americans “realized the true value of a miniature. They will pay anything from 500 to 1,000 dollars for a work [today’s value US$8,500 to US$17,000], whereas the English will pay fabulous prices for oil portraits, but do not seem to realize that there is the same amount of craftsmanship and knowledge put into the painting of a miniature”.

Working in the traditional way, making her own initial sketches during sittings, she also spoke out about the way that some modern miniature painters were using imprints of photographs to work from.  Sometimes these ‘photominiatures’ were accepted for exhibition by unsuspecting ‘Hanging Committees’, not realizing that what were really tinted photographs masquerading as miniatures!  

It is still an issue today. 

©Arturi Phillips Collection 2017

This miniature of Sir Connop Guthrie was painted in 1938 and is a fine example of Stella's work. Sir Connop and Monty were friends and business partners. In 1934 Sir Connop persuaded the Prudential to bankroll London Films, where Monty was General Manager.

©Stella Marks' Estate 2017

 Preparatory sketch for the miniature.

Here are three more miniatures painted after Stella's move to Britain.

©Stella Marks' Estate 2017

Lady Swan, painted in 1939. It received an Honorable Mention at The Paris Salon in 1957.

©Stella Marks' Estate 2017

This miniature of Vera Bleck, sister-in-law of Douglas Fairbanks Snr., was exhibited at the Royal Miniature Society in 1977. It was probably painted in 1938 at a time when Monty was in partnership with Fairbanks, until Fairbanks’ untimely death in 1939.

©Stella Marks' Estate 2017

This 'miniature within a miniature' of Sir Winston Churchill was completed in 1966. The head is no bigger than the head of a drawing pin.

In 1948, on the recommendation of Sir James Mann, Director of the Wallace Collection, Stella was given a commission by the Duke of Edinburgh to paint a miniature of the then HRH Princess Elizabeth. Following this she painted miniatures of all the Royal Family, to much acclaim.

As a career artist with an exceptional reputation, Stella Lewis Marks was awarded an MVO   ( Member of the Royal Victorian Order) in 1978 for her personal service to the Monarch. Sadly, her career was already coming to a close because of her declining eyesight and by 1980 she was blind.

Further information on Stella and Monty can be seen on  www.montyandstellamarks.com and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stella_Marks

For further information about miniature artists working during the first half of the 20th Century, 'Dictionary of Miniature Painters 1870-1970' pub. 2012

If you have an example of Stella's work we should love to hear from you.

Monday, June 12, 2017


Town hall Wells Somerset

Once again, the Hilliard Society held its Annual Miniature Painting Exhibition in the Town Hall in the ancient cathedral City of Wells, Somerset.  About 300 exhibits were admired by visitors from all over the country.  The 2017 exhibition closed on 10th June, but can be seen online from http://www.hilliardsociety.org/2017exhibition.html
Purchases can be packed and shipped worldwide.

Miniature painter Jenny Brooks, HS, RMS started a new project called 'Mini Masters' to encourage young people to take up miniature painting and a selection of the young artists' work was showcased alongside the main exhibition for the first time this year.  If you have or know children who might be interested in learning about this ancient skill, enquiries can be made through the Hilliard Society website.  There are two sections 7 - 11 years and 12 - 16 years. 


A descendant of William Grimaldi through the female line, Antony has long wished to acquire one of his famous forebear’s miniatures.  Quite recently, he bought what he believed to be a rare enamel miniature from a dealer.  

Enamel by William Grimaldi
of Lord Altamont
©APC Halls 2017

Enamel with watercolour paint 
peeling off
©APC Halls 2017

Part Signature of William Grimaldi
©APC Halls 2017

When Antony sent us the images, we noted the damage of the peeling paint and could not believe it was an enamel miniature, believing it to be perhaps a poorly surviving watercolour or even a later imprint from more recent times.  We were quite wrong.  It was indeed one the very few surviving enamel miniatures painted by Grimaldi and with some clever and persistent detective work, Antony discovered the identity of the sitter; Lord Altamont. Antony's detailed research also revealed that the miniature is based on a portrait of Lord Altamont by Sir Joshua Reynolds, currently held in a private collection. William Grimaldi’s grandson, Alexander Beaufort Grimaldi, compiled a ‘Catalogue, Chronological and Descriptive, of Paintings, Drawings, & Engravings, By and After William Grimaldi’, a limited edition, now a rare book, but later copies may still be obtained, as the original is not protected by Copyright.  According to this catalogue, Grimaldi painted two enamel miniatures of Lord Altamont  (John Denis Browne 1756-1809) in 1787, numbers 4 and 5, originally copied from a watercolour on ivory version of the sitter.  One of the enamels, the artist kept for himself, which in 1854 was possessed by his son, Stacey.  William Grimaldi personally listed the enamel miniatures he painted and the accompanying notes he wrote about their production makes very interesting and astonishing reading.  For those who understand the challenges of painting an enamel miniature, it is apparent that it is an extraordinarily difficult and laborious task and not one that any artist – even a talented miniature painter – could undertake without acquiring the specialist skills to perfect the colours and repeatedly fire the different colours in a kiln.  The difficulties Grimaldi faced are documented in detail.  Of the total of 38 enamel miniatures painted during his career, many were damaged during the complicated process…  no. 12 ‘This picture cracked but was recovered’, no. 13. ‘This plate gave me infinite trouble and labour, by cracking in the fire, then being mended, and at last lost.  Never can be recovered.  The labour or time in painting and mending took me 20 days’, no. 21 ‘This picture cracked and afterwards some part broke by a fall. But I recovered it quite perfect.  N.B. The above was the cause of it going 5 times in the fire more than it otherwise would..’ no. 34 ‘Cracked’, no. 35 ‘Spoilt in firing’, no. 36 ‘spoilt in firing’.

The clue to what happened to Antony’s enamel miniature is explained in Grimaldi’s notes on no. 22. ‘This plate cracked and was mended and touched with watercolour’  and no. 30. ‘This enamel was afterwards touched or mended with watercolours, and went to Ireland, and after two years returned much damaged…’  And so we conclude that Grimaldi used watercolour on a number of his enamel miniatures in order to recover them after firing accidents. In Antony’s miniature, we can see that the watercolour would not adhere properly, hence the peeling of the paint around the sitter’s head. Interestingly, Grimaldi bought the prepared plates that he painted on from either a Mr. Griffiths or a Mr. Long and he paid for the firings as he probably did not have the skills for this process, or it was not worthwhile for him to have his own kiln.  The fact that any of Grimaldi’s 38 attempted enamel miniatures survive today is remarkable and is testament to their rarity.

House of Grimaldi

Principality of Monaco

Until very recently when the laws of succession were changed, the title of Prince of Monaco and heir to the throne of Monaco could only devolve through the male line.  In 1918, Prince Louis, the heir apparent, was unmarried and childless and the next in line to the throne was a cousin, a German national.  Given the animosity between France and Germany because of the First World War, it was considered unacceptable for the cousin to become heir to the Principality and a solution was sought.  Prince Louis therefore legally adopted a female called Charlotte, apparently his illegitimate child and she was named heir to the throne.  She became a Duchess and on her marriage her husband changed his name to Grimaldi and became Prince of Monaco.  Charlotte later divorced her husband and named her son as heir.  Her son, Rainier, went on to succeed to the title and to marry the actress, Grace Kelly. 

The Pink Palace

William Grimaldi’s son, Stacey, was a lawyer and a specialist in peerage cases.  In 1834 he established and recorded the pedigree of his branch of the Grimaldi family at the College of Arms in London.  This research led the way for a claim by a descendant in 1922, which was reported in the newspapers. Unfortunately, the descendant, Marquis George Frederick Grimaldi, was baffled by how he should proceed with his claim, and nothing came of it.


William Grimaldi was born in St. Leonard’s, Shoreditch, London on 26th August 1751.  His father, Alexander (1714-1800), was the son of Alessandro Maria Grimaldi (1659-1732), and heir to the Genoese family of Grimaldi, being the 7th Marquess. His mother was Esther Barton (1721-1774) and his father’s second wife

In 1764, when William was 13, he was apprenticed for seven years to his uncle, Thomas Worlidge, a successful artist, to study drawing and painting. Worlidge had himself received instruction from William’s grandfather, Alessandro, who was also an artist, and had married Alessandro’s daughter, Arabella, as his first wife.  About two years after William had left home to live with his uncle at Great Queen Street, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Worlidge died in 1766 leaving the young Grimaldi to reside with his aunt, Worlidge’s widow and his third wife, for the remainder of his apprenticeship. William Grimaldi continued to study portrait painting and to master watercolour, portrait miniatures, enamelling and oil painting.  The Worlidge family again became connected to the Grimaldis when Thomas Worlidge Junior, the only surviving son of Worlidge Senior’s third marriage, married William Grimaldi’s sister, Phoebe c. 1785.

Unknown Lady  By William Grimaldi
Signed and dated 1805
Provenance: by family descent
Mary Ann Grimaldi to
Louisa Beaufont Grimaldi (1834-1914 ) to
Esther Grimaldi (born 1884 in Ealing)
©Arturi Phillips. 2016

In 1777, William accompanied his father to Paris and remained for the following six years.  He gained many commissions from the city’s High Society, having been given introductions to the King’s Almoner through his friendship with Abbe Clovet.  Reputedly, his polished manners, amiable disposition and cheerfulness won him many clients.  He also received offers to advance his position on condition that he embrace the Roman Catholic religion, which he declined.  William’s father, Alexander, had already relinquished his Catholicism.

On 13th November 1783, Grimaldi married Miss Frances Barker in England and returned to Paris with his bride, where they set up home until the following year.  On returning to England William and his wife had four children, the youngest, Henry, died aged 15. 

A Naval Officer by William Grimaldi
©V&A Images. 2016

Although Grimaldi  exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1786 and continued to do so until 1824, he did not enrol as a student at the Academy Schools. He gained many introductions through his friendship with the first President of the Academy, Joshua Reynolds, and quickly established himself in Royal circles, with the appointment of Miniature Painter to the Duke of York in 1790 and the Duchess of York in 1791, followed by the appointment of Enamel Painter Extraordinary to the Prince of Wales (later George IV) in 1804.  There are still twelve miniatures by Grimaldi in the Royal Collection today, most of them commissioned by George, Prince of Wales.

 William Grimaldi’s first exhibits at the Royal Academy were signed ‘De Grimaldi’ or Di Grimaldi’.  By 1790 he had dropped the prefix and his signature was often found on the front lower edge just as ‘Grimaldi’.  A further variation was the use of the title ‘AR’ (Academie Royale, the French Royal Academy) after his name, W. Grimaldi AR, although he was never elected as such.

The Rev. Dr. Foster by William Grimaldi
©V&A Images. 2016

In 1800 William’s father, Alexander,7th Marquess of Grimaldi, died and William became the 8th Marquess.  He continued his work as an artist throughout his life, painting miniatures on ivory and on enamel, watercolour portraits, pencil and ink drawings. His grandson, Alexander Beaufort Grimaldi, compiled a catalogue of William Grimaldi’s work in 1873 (A Catalogue, chronological and descriptive of Paintings, Drawings & Engravings by and after William Grimaldi) which detailed over 440 miniatures on ivory, 38 enamel miniatures and many watercolour and pencil drawings.  However, posthumous catalogues are not always completely accurate and it is thought that the total number of miniatures on ivory that he painted during his long career was around 1000. 

 An Unknown Lady by William Grimaldi
©V&A Images. 2016

In his later years, Grimaldi’s temperament was said to have become more variable. Apparently, he was prone to be highly sentimental in his relationships with periods of excitable behaviour and episodes of melancholy and depression.  At times he was very lavish with his expenditure.  After his wife, Frances, died in 1813 aged 63, he kept working but never remarried.  According to family stories, he did, however, form an attachment to Elizabeth Dawe, a very pretty girl who was described as his niece and who lived with him after he became a widower.  She was reputed to be a talented musician  and was able to clear away his depression with her music.  He in turn taught her miniature painting.

Captain Edwin Stacey by William Grimaldi

©Philip Mould Galleries 2017

William Grimaldi died on 27th May 1830 aged 78 and was buried in Bunhill Fields Cemetery on 3rd June.  The cemetery is at 38 City Road and although technically in Islington, is owned and managed by the City of London.  His son, Stacey, inherited the title and became 9th Marquess Grimaldi.

George Washington by William Grimaldi
Signed and dated 1800
©V&A Images. 2016

William Grimaldi worked from the following London addresses, according to entries in the Royal Academy collated by Algernon Graves:

1786 12 Parliament Street
1787  7 King Street, St. James’s
1795  2 Albemarle Street, St. James’s
1812  16 Hunter Street North, Brunswick Square
1819  1 Cophall Court, Throgmorton Street
1824  76 Upper Ebury Street, Chelsea

We are grateful to Antony Paul Colton Halls, a descendant of the Grimaldi family and an artist himself, for sharing previously unknown details about William Grimaldi, after three decades of interest and research.  Antony has his own personal fascinating story to tell (please see below) about an acquired enamel miniature and his belief that the wrong branch of the family sit on the Grimaldi throne.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Further Information on NICHOLAS FREESE (1761/2-1831)

Nicholas Freese, the artist, was born in Birmingham, Warwickshire  in 1761/2.  His father, also called Nicholas, was born in Hamburg, Germany and his English mother, Elizabeth Rowney, was London born.  His German grandparents were Jurgen and Maria Freese

His father's family later settled in England, where his father worked as a merchant in commerce at 7 New Street, Birmingham, according to Baileys British Directory for Merchants and Traders.  His parents married on 30th March 1758 in the parish of Saint Martins, Birmingham.  His father was naturalised British on 21st December 1767 and died in Birmingham in 1807 and his mother, Elizabeth, died the following year. 

The artist had five siblings; four sisters and one brother called George, although only he and his youngest sister, Sarah (1771-1849) are known to have survived into adulthood.  At some point Nicholas moved to London to pursue his career as an artist and he is listed in 1790 in Wakefield's Merchant and Tradesman's General Directory for London as a Portrait and Landscape Painter, living at 426 Strand, London.  On 29th August, 1791. he married Mary Stokes in St. Martin in the Fields.  Pallot's Marriage Index for England reveals a copy of his marriage record, showing his distinctive writing of his surname.

Nicholas' sister, Sarah (1771-1849) married the Rev. William Green, a clergyman, scholar and mathematician when she was 22 years old and her bridegroom 30 or so years older.  The oil paintings of Sarah and her husband William Green, which are shown below, look very likely to have been painted by Sarah's brother, Nicholas. 

The Rev. William Green 
©Sykes, J. 2016

Mrs. Sarah Green (nee Freese)
©Sykes, J. 2016

Further details of the couple can be seen on www.anthropos.org.je.  We are grateful to Mr. J. Sykes for allowing us to use these images and for providing further information about the Freese family.

Nicholas and his wife, Mary, called their only son George, after the artist's brother, and their youngest daughter, Mary, after her mother.  
Their son, George Fraser Freese (1792-1813) was a lieutenant in the British army and served in the 59th regiment of foot.  He died  in the Peninsular War. The European Magazine and London review Volume 64, Jul - Dec. 1813, p. 365, lists amongst its 'Deaths Abroad' section:

'Lieutenant George Fraser Freese, of the 59th Regiment of foot, in his 22nd year, only son of Mr. N. Freese, artist. As an ensign, he partook in the perils of the Walcheren expedition; in the memorable battle of Vittoria (sic) as a lieutenant, his intrepidity was highly conspicuous and claimed the particular attention of the Hon. Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Fane, now no more, and at the storming of St. Sebastian he was mortally wounded whilst gallantly leading and cheering the brave company he had the honour to command and which was one of the first that stormed the breach.'

George Fraser Freese was wounded storming San Sebastian on 31st August 1813 and died on 5th September 1813. (Further references: www.napoleonguide.com,British Army Officers Casualties Peninsular War. Peninsular Warin Battle of Vitoria).

Nicholas Freese exhibited at the Royal Academy 1794-1814.  His last exhibit in 1814 was a miniature in memory of his dead son, George.  It is possible that he did not paint any miniatures after this date. 

An unknown Lady c.1810
by Nicholas Freese
©Arturi Phillips Images. 2016

His daughter, Mary, was an actress.  She appears to have used the spelling Freize for her surname.  Whilst performing on the Southampton and Portsmouth circuit, she met her future husband, the actor and writer Henry Stephen Kemble (1789-1836), a member of the famous acting family.  Despite opposition from his family, he and Mary were married on 23rd January 1814 at South Shields, Durham.  Later that year, Mary played the part of Agnes in The Mountaineers at the Haymarket, London on 12th July, whilst her husband played the part of Octavian.  He did not have a high reputation as an actor, but was deemed to be good at 'ranting and raving'.  Mary was described in The Dictionary of National Biography as 'pretty, lively and vivacious, but overpowered by timidity'. 
(Further references: A Biographic Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London 1660-1800 by Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim, Edward A. Langhans (Copyright 1982 South Illinois University Press), British Pirates in Print & Performance, Introducing 'Striding the Deck, Strutting the Stage.')

Nicholas Freese had three known London addresses whilst he was working as an artist:

426 Strand
411 Strand
9 Percy Street

A Lady by Nicholas Freese
©V&A Museum. 2016

A typical background by Freese

Nicholas Freese died in January 1831 aged 70 and was buried at St. John the Evangelist, Lambeth.  At the time of his death he was living at Waterloo Road, London