Once upon a time, I had a project in mind to research my great grandfather's career as an artist in some thoroughness - it hasn't as yet come to anything, though I have successfully managed to get Doug interested and he may yet make a job of it. Meanwhile I have been lucky to secure a second unfinished portrait for my own small collection of family portraits.
This one is the kind gift of the couple who bought our old family home 30-odd years ago. It had been left in the attic, abandoned I think because the canvas had fallen back on some exposed nails on an old packing case and had been punctured in a couple of places. In all the bother of removing the accumulated rubbish of the previous century, it might well have ended up on a bonfire.
Fortunately, the new owners opted on a restoration instead, the painting was cleaned, patched, re-stretched, and framed. They have now sold up in turn, and as part of their downsizing very kindly passed it back to me. Somewhere along the way she had picked up a little bit of mildew, and the original repair job was in need of a touch-up. I also wanted to get her varnished for better future preservation (it's much easier to clean dirt off varnish than it is from paint, and modern varnishes do not yellow the way old ones used to). She won't have glass on her and I'm all too aware of how much dust, candle soot, and other sundry grime accumulates on my windows to be complacent about a canvas.
I got her back today looking particularly vibrant and full of the joys of spring - and I'm very happy to have done so. Florence Ruth Anderton married Edward Hornby Foster, and was by all accounts a formidable woman. She is popularly rumoured to have haunted at least two of the houses she lived in, and for all I know maybe she left some part of her spirit in a few others as well. I never heard her referred to as anything but Mrs Foster by anyone, family included, who could have remembered her - but there are photographs of her in fancy dress, many taken with her brothers which suggest a lighter side to her personality. I would dearly have liked to meet her. Dad has another, finished, portrait of her that I covet where she looks remarkably stern, although maybe she's just trying to balance her hat and maintain some gravity.