Our seasonal highlight shows a section of this watercolour – a wintery scene across Reading viewed from a window. [Highlighted: Nov 2023]
Eleanor May Skrimshire was a member of the RGA from its founding year 1930. She became both the Treasurer and Secretary in 1935, serving as Secretary for 20 years and Treasurer for 34 years. Affectionately called “Skrimmy” she is described as a slightly enigmatic figure, indomitable, faithful and capable of great restraint, tact and patience. She was made an Honorary member in 1973 and was still very much involved with the RGA. She would recall her activities as a young art teacher when she cycled to schools within a 10 mile radius of Reading. A portrait of the artist was exhibited in 1958 ‘Miss E. M. Skrimshire’ by Hugh Finney.
This wintery view of Katesgrove Ward is from the back window of her home on Coley Hill, whose garden stretched down to Field Road. We can see St Giles church in the background. Katesgrove Ward is an electoral district near the centre of Reading. Skrimmy inherited the house at Coley Hill from her aunt (and RGA member) Annie M. Bradley. The house was used as a venue for many years to host council meetings and for two decades (surrounding the 1960s) it was used for what became know as “Monday night at Skrimmy’s”. The basement was transformed into a studio where an enthusiastic group of painter members met up for life or portrait study from a model. This painting was exhibited at the RGA 46th Annual Exhibition, Reading Museum and Art Gallery, 8thMay – 29th May 1976.
In 1978 it is reported that “the seemingly immortal E May Skrimshire, who for so many years in the past had borne such a heavy burden of office, died at the age of ninety-two”. A review from 1943 describes E. May Skrimshire’s Coley Park Farm as “a perfect watercolour, full of freshness of colour”. It appears she mainly worked in watercolour, although in 1934 she exhibited an embroidered handbag!