SOMERVILLE, Peggy

1918 - 1975

Peggy Somerville

Margaret Scott Somerville, was born at the Old Ford Farm, Ashford, Middlesex on 2 June 1918, one of the six children of Scottish born artist and collector Charles Somerville and his second wife Rose Annie née Chantree, who married at St Michael's, Chester Square, London in 1905 and moved to Shimpling in Suffolk in 1931; a sister of Stuart Somerville [q.v.]. Known as Peggy, she was a child prodigy who learned to paint from her father and older brother Stuart at the same time that she learned to talk. When she was three, two of her watercolours were selected for an exhibition held by the Royal Drawing Society and at the age of seven one of her paintings, 'Happy Days by the Sea', was exhibited at the New Irish Salon in Dublin, having been chosen on merit by judges who knew nothing of her age and in the same year it was exhibited at the Bond Street Gallery, London. Her first one-woman exhibition was held at the Claridge Gallery in Brook Street, Mayfair, London in June 1928 and she was hailed as a child genius by newspapers throughout Britain and as far away as Boston, USA and in a matter of days every one of the hundred or so paintings on show had sold; another 52 of her works, mostly landscapes and groups of gypsies with groups of horses and caravans, were on show at the same venue which opened on 20 July 1929. She had another exhibition at the Beaux Arts Gallery, London which opened on 22 November 1932. In 1937 she was living at Fox House, Fox Road, Wigginton, Tring, Hertfordshire, from where she exhibited at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. After studying at the Royal Academy Schools for just a few months in 1939, she gave up formal study and served as a Land Girl 1942-1945 when she, and her widowed mother, moved to live with her brother Stuart at Newbourne, Suffolk. From 1960 she, and her mother, lived at Westleton, Suffolk and then at Middleton from where she made frequent excursions to the nearby coast, particularly to Aldeburgh. In Suffolk she painted vigorous oils, watercolours and pastels, her beautiful Aldeburgh paintings showing a rare sensuality and sensitivity. After her early fame, her national reputation declined until she was rediscovered and promoted by art historian Stephen Reiss (1918-1999). She died of cancer at the Stone House, Middleton on 29 June 1975. (Stephen Reiss - Peggy Somerville (1996))




Works by This Artist