Saturday, November 08, 2014

Research into Lilian Lancaster, still life and portrait painter 1887 - 1973

Lilian Lancaster artist, 1930 art, art history,
Woman in striped dress
I recently acquired a collection of art work by Lilian Lancaster and want to challenge people of the internet to help me research more about her life and art.  There is very little information about her online that I've been able to find so far, but will add more details as they are discovered.  I hope that by chance people will find this page and perhaps add what they may know about her, in order to help develop a fuller biography of this interesting woman and artist. 

Lilian Lancaster artist, 1930 art, art history,
When I Googled her name the first link I found was this single item in the BBC - Your Paintings website.  It shows one of her portraits, The Boy and the Cat painted 1933, clearly in the style of the paintings I own and showing the dates she lived 1887-1973.  If those dates are accurate (will need to verify) it's a starting point.  This painting is said to be in the collection of the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool .  Contact with the curator may provide more information.

There is information about another rather colourful
LILIAN LANCASTER [TENNANT] [1852-1939] a Victorian pantomime artiste and humorous map maker.  From this very interesting article by Roderick M. Barron I found that the two Lilians were related. 

Lilian Lancaster artist, 1930 art, art history,According to Mr Barron, it seems the elder Lilian had two nieces, Dora and Lilian, the daughters of her elder brother, William James Lancaster. He mentions that Lilian junior was a noted artist, who studied at the Slade under Walter Sickert. In 1921 she married Alfred Clive Gardiner [1891-1960], a well- known poster artist and designer for London Transport and noted book illustrator. He later became Principal of Goldsmiths’ College, London and they had two children. In 1914 Dora married the important sculptor, Edmund Thomas Wyatt Ware (d.1960) and they also had two children.

From this I've identified a number of connections to follow up.  Hopefully I will will be able to add further under the headings below:-
  • Young Lilian's father, William James Lancaster. 
  •  Her connections to the Slade and/or 
  •  Her husband Alfred Clive Gardiner and their two children.  According to the London Transport Museum he was born in Blackburn, Lancashire,  1891 died 1960.  He studied at the Slade 1909-1912 and at the Royal Academy Schools 1913-1914.  He designed posters for the Underground Group and London Transport 1926-1951.  He taught art at Goldsmith's College School of Art from 1929and became its Principal in 1952.  He was an influential British designer and teacher. Elements of Cubism and Futurism can be seen in his posters. He also illustrated a number of books, including 'Leaves in the Wind' (1919). See also ISSUU Artist Biography.  
  • There's a short biography of Lilian herself also at ISSUU under L.  From this I learn that Lilian was at the Slade from 1906-1910 under Henry Tonks and Fred Brown.  Then at the Royal Academy Schools from 1910-1914 'Walter Sickert a notable teacher'.  It reports that her son, Stephen Gardiner (writer) 'remembered that Sickert "regarded Lilian as his favourite pupil.  He gave her one of his paintings, nude on bed, Camden Town period.  Most of all she admired the French impressionists and Van Gogh and, of the impressionists Renoir, was certainly an influence" '  This source says she taught at Eastbourne College of art from 1916 - 1921.  She exhibited at the RA Summer Exhibition and NEAC, of which she was a member.  In 1960 after her husbands death she moved to Wytham, Oxfordshire.  Manchester City Art Gallery is said to have acquired her art.  I have now discovered that she lived at the Dower House at Wytham.
  •  Goldsmiths College. 
  • Her sister Dora Lancaster and her husband Edmund Thomas Wyatt Ware.  Margaret Reade their daughter, born 1916, was also an artist.  Her portrait was used in the Aero chocolate advertising campaigns.
I have now found a reference to Lilian Lancaster on the website of the Modernist Journals Project.  From this I learned that she studied at the Westminster School of Art and at the Slade, and taught at the Brighton and Eastbourne Art Schools. She exhibited her work mainly in London from 1911 to 1939.  It could therefore be that her contact with Walter Sickert was at Westminster.  Her work received serious critical attention from Anthony Ludovici in The New Age for December 12, 1912 at the beginning of her art career.  His critique can be seen on the MJP website.

Lilian Lancaster artist, 1930 art, art history,

Lilian Lancaster artist, 1930 art, art history,
Lilian Lancaster artist, 1930 art, art history,

Lilian Lancaster artist, 1930 art, art history,
Lilian Lancaster artist, 1930 art, art history,

Lilian Lancaster artist, 1930 art, art history,

I am very grateful to Sue Bachorski for getting in touch and providing images of two of Lilian's paintings she recently acquired.  The paintings are in her distinctive style.  Sue tells me they were discovered in a charity shop in the Tunbridge Wells district of the UK.  I am so pleased they have gone to a good home, and with someone who will continue to appreciate this artist's contribution to 20th Century British art.

If you can offer any further insights into the life and work of Lilian Lancaster please email me.


Anonymous said...

My sister and I had portraits painted by her in 1964

Bee Skelton said...

Thank you! It's good to hear from you? I'd love to know more! Do you have memories of your contact with Lilian Lancaster. During the portrait sittings perhaps? Anything you would like to share? Is it possible to share an image of the portrait she created of you and your sister? I feel a connection with Lilian from my research and also because I live with her paintings on a day to day basis. You can contact me privately at

SueBach said...

Hi - I have just found two of Lilian's paintings in a local charity shop (I live in Tunbridge Wells). One of these could possibly be the painting referred to above, as it's of a young boy & girl & I'd guess it dates to the 60s. The other painting looks earlier, due to the style & also the condition of the canvas. I'm guessing possibly 1930s. It's of a young boy with a black labrador dog.
Regards. Sue (

Bee Skelton said...

Sue, thank you so much for getting in touch. I'd love to see the pictures you mention. Thank you for your email address. I shall contact you.
Regards Bee