Beatson; Girl with a Book

Gladys Joan Bell, 1924My mum, Gladys Joan Swift (as she was then), looks about six in this portrait, so it must have been painted around 1924.

signaturecanvasIt was painted in Sheffield by Charles Beatson (1864 – 1949). He painted historical subjects including a Portrait of a Cavalier. In those subjects, I can see the influence by of Dutch painters and I think there are hints of that in this portrait, that’s if you can get past mum’s 1920s party dress!

The canvas is 3ft x 2ft 6 inches. There’s no makers name on the back.


mumbook2I’d love to identify the book that my mum is holding. It might be there to add a splash of colour but, even so, it looks like a particular title. It’s possible that my mum had brought a book with her to the sitting but I think that it’s more likely to be a prop, something Beatson was able to put his hands on in the studio.

When I invert and stretch it in Photoshop, the illustration on the back cover looks like a woman reading from an open book to a boy.

Gladys Joan Swift, oil painting by Charles Beatson.One of my mum’s favourite books was Alice in Wonderland. In her final illness, in January this year, when she was confined to bed in a nursing home, she asked me to look out her childhood copy of Alice and to bring it in and read it to her, describing to me just where I’d find it on the bookshelf. I’m sorry that I didn’t get around to doing that before she passed away but between the two of us we managed to remember a few of the lines from the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

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