The Stannard Sisters of Bedfordshire – Artists, Teachers and Musicians

The Stannard Sisters of Bedfordshire -  Artists, Teachers and Musicians

Emily, Lilian, and Ivy Stannard were famed for their paintings and achieved a great deal of distinction in the world of art. Their father, Henry Stannard, R.B.A., a painter and tutor of art, had taught his daughters to paint.

Henry Stannard was born on 15th January 1844 at Eversholt, Bedfordshire. From an early age, his passion was painting. On the 9th of April 1890, Henry had set up the Bedford Academy of Arts at the corner of Harpur and Dame Alice Street. He taught mostly private pupils. Nearly all of them were women who came from all parts of Bedfordshire.

In 1870, he married Ruth Willishere, and as well as their three daughters they had two sons, Henry and Alexander, who were both painters.

Emily Stannard, the eldest daughter, was born at Eversholt on the 27th January 1875. From an early age, her father and her brother Henry taught her to paint. She showed early signs of turning out to be the most gifted of all her siblings.

Emily attended the Howard College, Bromham Road, Bedford, a High-Class Boarding and Day School for girls, established in 1852, where pupils received a sound education at moderate cost. In 1891, she won a school prize for painting. She passed the Public Examinations and went on to study art at the National Art Training School in South Kensington.

Emily also trained as a singer and sung Mezzo-Soprano. She was a pupil of Signor Fiori and Mr. Emeric Beaman of the Crystal Palace, Covent Garden, and the Liverpool Philharmonic Concerts. Her two sisters and her brother were also musicians. In January 1896, they performed at a concert in Woburn Town Hall, in aid of ‘Waifs and Strays ‘Association’ in which Emily sung soprano, Lillian played guitar, and Ivy, violin. Their brother Henry sang comic songs and his wife Annie, who was a professional singer, sung soprano.

By the age of 22 years, Emily had turned professional, and held her own art classes at Ivel Bury, Biggleswade. In 1897, The Crystal Palace exhibited two of her paintings “On the Ouse, Bedford,” and “At Close of Day.” In 1898, one of her paintings, “Honey Hills, Bedford,” hung in the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, London. (1900-1903). The Royal Academy of Arts exhibited seven of her paintings

At the age of 24, Emily contracted tuberculosis and was too ill to carry on painting. Her father exhibited her last painting in his 1905 “Academy of Art” exhibition. The Ampthill and District News of 29th April 1905 describes the painting as “An extremely pretty river scene, with a summery foreground, and the distance beautifully broken by elms and willows.”

Sadly, Emily died at Aspley Guise on 31st March 1906, aged 31. She was buried at Bedford Cemetery on 3rd April. Grave Ref:  F4.126

The youngest daughter, Ivy Stannard, was born at Froxfield, Bedfordshire in 1881 and she attended the Howard College, Bedford. From an early age she displayed a talent for watercolour. She received no formal training, other than the lessons given by her father. In 1902, she won a bronze medal for the violin at the London Academy of Music.

She did not exhibit many paintings, as she wanted to give more time to running the Academy of Art that her father had set up in 1890. She was also an art teacher at St Andrew’s School, Bedford. In 1916, she married Oswald S. Horn, a local surveyor and auctioneer.  They later moved to 89 Bromham Road, Bedford.

The Bedfordshire Times of 20th April 1923, reported on the Stannard Exhibition held at the Brook Street Art Gallery, London. “A collection of characteristic Stannard water colours exhibited by Ivy, her brother Henry and his daughter Theresa. Many art lovers have visited the show and sharing the view, which we gather in held art circles that these pictures will increase in value, made by many purchases. Miss Ivy Stannard’s moorland scenes of which eight are on view, with their predominant purple, they stand out in striking contrast to the varied hues of their wall companions. One is not; however, conscious of monotony, for the artist has succeeded with singular skill in conveying the many-sided and ever-changing moods of the moor. The sense of eerie wildness and vast expanse is very real, and so to complete are the scenes in every detail that little is left to the imagination. That indeed is the supreme genius of the Stannard work.”

Ivy’s mother Ruth had lived at 1 Harpur Place for fifty years, and after Henry died in 1920, she lived with Ivy at 89 Bromham Road, until her death in 1936 at the age of 90 years. Ivy’s husband Oswald died in 1967, and Ivy died at her home on Sunday 1st September 1968, aged 87. They were buried with Emily in the family grave at Bedford Cemetery

Lilian Stannard was born at Froxfield, Bedfordshire, on March 24th, 1877. She was probably one of the most talented of all the ‘garden painters’.

By the time Lilian had reached thirty, she had turned out to be one of the most notable painters of English garden scenes in Bedfordshire and the gardens of Cambridge Universities. Some scenes were reproduced in gardening books and on postcards. Owners of some of England’s finest gardens commissioned her, one of whom was Lady Ludlow, who commissioned her to paint the gardens at Luton Hoo.

Lilian married Dr Walter Bircombe Silas in 1909. He was a House Surgeon at Westminster Hospital. They lived at 101 Southgate Road, London, where she lived for nine years before moving for a short time to Lancing, Sussex. She moved back to live at 22 Devon Road, Bedford from 1919 until 1929. She then moved again to live at 33 Shooters Hill Road, Blackheath, and lived there until her death on 24th November 1944.

A book published in 2018 details the life of Henry John Sylvester Stannard and his daughter Theresa Sylvester Stannard, who was patronised by Royalty for many years. The author, Richard Morgan wrote the biography to coincide with the unveiling of blue plaques on their houses at 64 and 68 Spencer Road, Bedford.

Bedfordshire Times and Independent Saturday 20th March 1896
Biggleswade Chronicle and North Bedfordshire Gazette 27th January 1899
The Beds Advertiser and Luton Times 18th May 1906
The Times May 1914