Oct 2, 2013

A Dainty Drawing with a Slightly Significant Connection.

Greetings by E.K.Robison.
A wee while ago I went op(portunity)-shopping, as I do.
That day I found sweet, lolly coloured items, in pinks, light blues and bright yellows.  A 70's bedsheet in pink pop-art flowers, I am sure you'll remember the kind!
 A vintage souvenir tablecloth from Australia, and an old tea-towel with yellow roses and smothered in a white crocheted edge.

Sweet thrifting finds!
Tiny childrens' books with animal pictures, an old print of a church, a chinese good luck rabbit, crumpled embroidered linen with little flowers.
A vintage japanese eggcup and tiny glass buttons in blue and white. 
And amongst all the 20cent junk in the bin that gets emptied each night into the rubbish skip, a sweet little drawing done in waterpaints and pencil. I thought it charming and instinctively pulled it out from amongst the plastic bowls, broken vases and ripped books.
I took the little treasures home and had a good look at them with a cup of tea.

I used to put my little girls' hair up like this too.
The little face was painted so simply, but very effectively. 
I could see the brushstrokes in the waterpaint.
There was a bit of dried up plastic sticky tape attaching the circular drawing to the bottom page. It had left a yucky bright red mark on the paper unfortunately. On the paper attached was written "Get Well Soon", the signature on the drawing was E.K. Robison 59. And on the back it said in the same handwriting: "original of one of my cards worked for reproduction E " I was getting curious. Cards? She/He produced greeting cards?
So I googled it. "postcards E.K.Robison". Hmmm can't find the name on the page, but I'm in the national library archives of NZ. Was the artist a NZer?
Just the name in google search then: right, some auction houses, an Australian art auction house has sold 8 works , there is 1 photo, and the painting is a similar style of a maori boy, also circular.
Well it is looking promising.
Another work is dated 1918. So the artist has been doing this for a while .

E.K.Robison signature.
I search for the name again in the National library of New Zealand.
It comes up under a heading of various artists collection: Robison, Edith Kathleen 1879-1986.
Aha, a lady artist and goodness me, she lived to the ripe old age of 107 years !
The heading underneath says:  Bendall, Edith Kathleen  1879-1986.
That must be the same lady, but perhaps her maiden name?
Yes, a description of the drawing in the collection follows and is credited to Robison, E.K.
I click on the names record.
A list of references comes up, also 3 mentioning Katherine Mansfield, one of NZ's most loved short story writers. I click on 1 of those, and I find out Mansfield wrote Miss Bendall a letter. It's in a collection in the national library. Cool.
 However this doesn't tell me more about the lady artist.

Her scribble on the back making me curious.
I go back to google search and find a mention of 2 more artworks in an exhibition write-up from 1908.
But no more photos, so I search google images 
Hmmm, that's a lot of pictures of Katherine Mansfield. Weird.
But that picture on the 3d row is not Katherine, maybe Edith?
I click and get to the wikipedia page of Francess Hodgkins, a prestigious and influential landscape and still life painter.
On the third paragraph it says -"among her pupils was Edith Kathleen Bendall, lover of Katherine Mansfield".

A sweet maori boy, sold at an auction.
 I don't know that much about Katherine Mansfield: wonderful NZ writer, had a tumultuous love life, lived overseas a lot, and died young from tuberculosis. I did know she was bi-sexual, it must have been difficult at the time when one was expected to marry and you couldn't even vote as a woman yet.
But now I am learning fast.

Photo from auction catalogue.
During my later detective work I have since found out, that they were involved during 1906-1908, when EKB (as Mansfield called her in her diaries) would have been 26 or 27 years old. Mrs. Edith Robison has never admitted there was a lesbian relationship between them, but they did have plans to produce childrens' books together, Edith doing the artwork and Katherine the storywriting. However this never came to pass.
Auction catalogue photo, by E.K.Robison
And I am sorry about that. Because looking at these gorgeous artworks (that I have found on the international art centre auction site) I am sure their books would have been a huge success.

I feel very lucky to have found this raggedy piece of paper with that sweet dainty drawing on it.
I will find a frame for it, for it is my little connection to New Zealand Art History.
And I just managed to save it from the rubbish bin, for the price of 20 cents!
Auction catalogue photo, by E.K. Robison.


Lindy Erskine said...

Edith Robison was my grandmother- her daughter, Barbara, is still alive and well- aged 103.

It's really not known what the relationship was between Kathleen Mansfield and Edith was- possibly lesbian- but also just as possibly not- they were certainly close friends when Kathleen was in NZ, and wrote each other letters- Edith's with drawings attached- sadly now lost, unless you have found some?

Lindy Erskine

Elmtree said...

Wow, how awesome you left a message for me! Thank you! Indeed, the relationship remains between them, and it is really none of our business. I just loved my lucky find. No there were no letters in the throw-out bin, but perhaps she send this drawing to someone else, who was feeling poorly. As it says "get well soon".
I hope that you own some art by your grandmother?

Michelle Spence said...

Hi Lundy, we have a set of framed Japanese paintings by E K Robison and I've just found a sketch she did of my husband mother, Sally Bendall when she was a wee girl. After a bit of research it seems that she was a relation. Not sure how though.

Michelle Spence said...

Hi Lindy, we have 5 wee framed paintings of E K Robisons. My husband is a Bendall so you must be related. We also found a sketch she had done of my husbands mother.

Unknown said...

Hi there, Katherine Mansfield House & Garden in Wellington is looking at holding an exhibition of some of Edith Robison's work. It would be lovely to include the little piece you have if you still have it and would be willing to consider loaning it. If you could get in touch via our website (www.katherinemansfield.com/contact) I'd love to make contact with you. Cherie, Director of KMHG.

Elmtree said...

MICHELLE SPENCE, could you please get in contact again? It concerns the upcoming Wellington exhibition as mentioned in the last comment. 14jan2021