Monday, March 6, 2017

Stanley Cursiter Portrays Poppy Low

The image above is of the painting "A Summer Night" (1923) by Stanley Cursiter (1887-1976) featuring Poppy Low. Cursiter was from the Orkneys, but spent most of his career in Edinburgh where, among other things, he was Director of the National Galleries of Scotland. During the Great War he devised a new means of interpreting aerial reconnaissance photographs. He was also a champion of modernist art and some of his paintings were in that mode both early and late in his career, though they were not very good in my judgment.

Biographical information on Cursiter can be found here, here, and here, but some important details vary.

Beside dabbling in modernism, Cursiter also painted landscapes, particularly of Orkney scenes. Where he excelled was portraiture. Besides the usual mix of politicians and military officers, he painted some interesting works featuring family and friends. One of those friends was Poppy Low, who seemed to be somewhere around 16-22 years old when Cursiter was using her as a favorite model. Several of those paintings were group portraits that included his attractive wife Phyllis and his sister.

The images below are copyrighted by his estate, but I hope the estate will not mind the publicity this post will provide Cursiter. Not every painting featuring Poppy is presented here. And it's possible that some of the young women who I thought were Poppy were actually someone else. (For instance, there's a portrait of "Roberta" that looks like Poppy. But might Poppy's actual name have been Roberta?) I should add that so far I have found no details regarding her life.


Poppy and Phyllis at the Window
That would be Poppy on the right.

Black and White and Silver - 1921
An early paining featuring Poppy.

Girl with a Jug - 1921

Poppy Low - 1922

The Seamstress - 1923

Summer Afternoon
I think that's Poppy in the background.

House of Cards - 1924
I'm not so sure about this, though one source I skimmed stated the she was used for this painting.

Chez Nous: Artist, Self Portrait, Director of the National Galleries of Scotland, with his wife Phyllis Eda Hourston, and his model Poppy Low - 1925


Hels said...

There is nothing as beautiful as young, slim women, dressed in pure white lacy clothes, lounging around on a veranda or enjoying afternoon tea. But they were scenes much loved in the pre-WW1 era i.e until Sept 1914. I wonder why, with the exception of two paintings of women in modern dress, Cursiter loved to depict Edwardian scenes.

Anonymous said...

It is great to see your information about Cursiter and his work. I once owned one of the Cursiter paintings that you have featured on your page. I have become more and more interested in his work as I learn about the broad range of his subjects. His attention to soft detail in fabric and the way light catches inanimate objects is utterly fantastic.
This is a lovely presentation of the artist.

Yvonne Butler said...

I am looking for information on my great aunt, Roberta Farquharson, who my mother believes modelled for Stanley in the 1920s. However I can't find any information to back up that fact, other than her name was Roberta and she would have been about 20 in the 1920s and lived in Edinburgh. Her sister Nina modelled for William Russell Flint apparently too.

Dark Live and Sweaty said...

I'm not going to be able to do this for you however I can show you the path to answer your questions. First try searching digital databases of The Edinburgh Evening News, The Scotsman etc with general searches such as her name + Cursitor. Try adding 'artist model' even 'the engagement of' or 'marriage of' See what that throws up. Then using a Genealogy database such 'Scotlands People' you seek Roberta by searching the closest Census and then the Rates Register. Once you have her date of Birth and address you are right to go. If she was a nice middle class girl she might have gone to Art School. You want the admission records and the Matriculation records. How did Cursitor pay the models? You need to go to the records that may be available with reference to from where such payments would have come. You can also work backwards from her death. Perhaps she's mentioned in an obituary, death notice and so on. Forget family folklore, that isn't giving you much. Be Rebus.