Recently seen during the Rubens to Sickert: The Study of Drawing exhibition at Reading Museum, an inspirational highlight for our portrait painters, this of the RGA treasurer and secretary Miss E. M. Skrimshire. Find out more about the painter and his subject with this museum highlight. [Highlighted: November 2021]
Hugh Finney, described as ‘a superb draughtsman and most sensitive artist, was a painter, draughtsman, and teacher who after the Second World War taught part-time under Anthony Betts at the University of Reading in the Fine Art Department until his retirement in 1969. During this time Hubert Arthur Finney, ARCA, was also a member of the Reading Guild of Artists (1945-1969) and served on its Council several times.
This pastel portrait of Readings Guild of Artists treasurer and secretary Miss E. M. Skrimshire was exhibited at the RGA Annual Exhibition in 1958. Eleanor May Skrimshire (1886–1978) was a member of the RGA from its founding year 1930–1978. She became both the Treasurer and Secretary in 1935, serving as Secretary for 20 years and Treasurer for 34 years. She was made an Honorary member in 1973. It seems she was affectionately called “Skrimmy”, and is described as a slightly enigmatic figure, indomitable, faithful, and capable of great restraint, tact, and patience.
As well as portraits, Finney also exhibited regularly throughout his membership landscapes and still-life paintings and drawings and only stopped when he moved away on his retirement. In 1980 he wrote ‘I look back with nostalgia upon many of the activities that contributed to the happiness of my life between the late 1940s and 1960s, and give thanks for the many friendships I formed during those years and the encouragement I received to pursue my creative gift in the field of drawing and painting. It was through the RGA I was able to exhibit my work from year to year.’
Fellow member at the time E.V. Watson recalls an RGA event in the 1960s where ‘Hugh Finney painted an unforgettable oil portrait of RGA Exhibition Secretary Geoffrey Hughes’s attractive wife in a matter of something well under two hours. We looked on, with rapt attention as the almost perfect likeness took shape, while Hugh Finney was himself concentrating with such intensity that for long periods of time he uttered not a word.’
Mrs. Amy Finney was also an artist and member of the RGA 1958 – 1967 and her watercolour of Langdale Pikes, which was exhibited in 1960, is also part of the museum’s collection.