Sylvia St George was born Marguerite Agnes St George, in Hampshire but spent much of her life in Colchester, Essex, living mostly in Cambridge Road. Sylvia studied at Edinburgh School of Art and the Slade. She also studied in Paris, visited Munich and spent a long period in India, whose vibrant and exotic environment had a lasting effect on her work. She was related to Miss Ione Moncrieff St George Brett (1910-2004), the grand-daughter of Lt. Col. Harry Hemersley St George (1845-1897), an amateur artist working mostly in Sri Lanka in the latter part of the 19th century. Miss Ione Moncrieff St George Brett donated 10 of Sylvia St George’s paintings to Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service, most undated, but some dating from 1936 to 1944.(1)
While in Colchester Sylvia painted many local scenes including Colchester from the North, a painting owned by the Victor Batte-Lay Foundation (see link below) and views of Colchester during the Second World War, describing air raids and bombed houses. She also painted the surrounding area, including Boxted and the river Stour. According to Charles Debenham (q.v.), she had a beautiful studio with a large North facing window in Colchester High Street, right opposite William & Griffin (2). When she died, at the age of 69, students from Colchester Art School were allowed to come up and purchase the contents of her studio. Charles bought her brush carrier.
She was a member of Colchester Art Society for four years as the Society was founded in 1946 and she died in 1950. It was there that she met John Nash (q.v.) and Cedric Morris (q.v.). She later taught at the Colchester School of Art.
This charming, colourful painting of St Ives which has a great Mediterranean feel might have been painted in the 1940s. In this picture the boats are very similar in style to boats in a painting entitled Malaga, Spain(see link below) donated to Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service by Miss I M St George Brett, which unfortunately is not dated. During the mid-twentieth century, the small Cornish town of St Ives had become a centre for advanced modern art with the arrival of Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo and it is not surprising that Sylvia St George wanted to spend time there painting the surrounding landscape. Although she was not a modernist, she must have enjoyed the fine light and the rugged landscape which still attract many artists.
1992, 22nd February-28th March, The Minories, Colchester, Sylvia St George: Mini Retrospective of this late Colchester Artist
1971 Phoenix Gallery, Lavenham, Suffolk
Selected Works in Public Collections
Victor Batte-Lay Foundation
Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service
(1) Miss I M St George Brett also donated to the British Museum 64 watercolour landscape drawings of Sri Lanka painted by her grandfather Lt. Col. Harry Hemersley St George.
(2) The atelier window is still visible from William & Griffin. It was accessible via very narrow steps.