Gladys Wynne, watercolour artist

Edith Gladys Wynne (1876-1968) was the fourth surviving daughter (the eldest seems to have died in infancy) of Archdeacon George Wynne and his wife Nell, nee Smith. Nell's father was the Reverend Sidney Smith, D.D., but no relation, as far as I know, to the celebrated wit of that name. Gladys was born while her father was Vicar of Holywood, Count Down, and moved when she was six to Kilarney.

We may guess what Gladys' early childhood was like in an Irish parsonage by reading the little book called Evening Chimes. This book her father wrote and dedicated to Gladys and her brother Llewy. It was published by SPCK. (Second-hand copies are advertised dated 1910. These must be a reprint, because the dedication is 'To my own little ones', and Gladys and Llewy were adults in 1910.)

The picture painted is of a loving, happy home:
You little think what trouble your father has taken that you should be happy and healthy. You little know the pain and the labour which your mother has been glad to suffer that you should be the bright, thriving little thing you are.
The children were almost certainly taught at home by a governess. This upper and middle class custom is the background to one of Father's improving tales:
"I have a headache, Mamma," said Florence, "and I wish you would ask Miss Smith to give me a holiday."

"Yes," said her mother at once, "and you may come and lie down here on the sofa near me."

But Florence soon made an excuse and went out of the drawing-room to her baby-house, where she played by herself till the others had done their lessons.
As the custom of those days was, Sunday was a very different day from the rest of the week, but Gladys' home was not oppressive:
If you have been to Sunday School and Church in the morning, or have repeated your collect, text or hymn at home, I am sure our Blessed Lord is not displeased to see His little ones play lovingly and gently in the afternoon. He lets the lambs frisk in the meadows every day. And He likes to see you happy.
The family said Grace before meals, and Gladys' father was shocked if he saw 'boys or girls when they don't think [that they are being watched], smiling at each other in joke when God's blessing is being asked at dinner.'

Gladys and Llewy were taught that they were brother and sister to all God's children.
When a prettily dressed child of rich parents sees in the park, or in the street, a poor little child begging, or selling matches or violets, in bad thin clothes, she should try help that little girl, because she is a sister - she is one of God's family.
It is tempting to think that we have a portrait of little Gladys drawn by her father here:
I know a certain little girl who has got two bright eyes to see with, two ears to hear with, two hands to do all sorts of clever things with, two feet to run after butterflies with; she has a wise little head (sometimes!); she hardly ever has a pain or ache. She gets a good breakfast every day as soon as she has on her clothes. She had dinner and supper and all for nothing. And her bed is so soft and dainty, and such a nice place to sleep in when she is tired, and her eyes are shutting up. ...

When thanks are said after her good dinner, does she close her eyes and join her hands, and say it from her heart, and say 'Amen'; or is she impatient, hardly able to keep still, and pushing her chair away before 'Amen,' to be off to her play again?
In fact I know nothing of her life story, beyond the hint that she received a proposal of marriage, turned it down, and regretted having done so. She told me, "A man should always ask a woman again if she refuses him." In those days, the late nineteenth century, it would have been unthinkable for her to have gone back to the young man and told him that she didn't really mean her refusal.

All the time that I knew her (from 1939) she lived in Glendalough, in a delightful house called Lake Cottage, overlooking the Lower Lake. I imagine that she moved there partly to be near her first cousin, May Wynne, who lived in the grander house called The Cottage. She never seemed to tire of painting the lovely valley of Glendalough. She made her living by her paintings; I was taken as a small boy to an exhibition of the Watercolour Society of Ireland, at which she exhibited. The Society's website tells us where this was held. It says:
In 1891 the Society abandoned its provincial exhibitions and inaugurated an annual Spring Exhibition at the Hall, Molesworth Street, Dublin [until 1975].
The opening speech was not universally approved, being a comparison between watercolours and oil painting, and ending with the words "...than oil painting ever was!" What came before, I don't remember.

I remember a holiday with her in Lake Cottage; chiefly I remember sitting on the front doorstep shelling peas! When I was recovering from pneumonia she brought a treasure for me to see, but I can't remember what it was. Cousin May brought a musical box, which I thought was quite wonderful.

One family anecdote told how Gladys lost her penknife when painting out in Glendalough. A week or so later she took friends for a walk and passed the place. She told them of her loss, and said "I was sitting just here, and put the penknife down here - and here it is!"

This photo shows Gladys (on the bench, left) in the garden of Alders, Gordon Avenue, Foxrock. This was the home of her aunt by marriage, Evelyn Wynne. Evelyn's sister Irene is sitting on the far end of the bench.

A rector's wife recently wrote an account of their time in Annamoe Rectory, and mentions Gladys. This is one passage where Gladys is mentioned:
.. A painter friend of Stanley's, Carew, often visited us at week-ends. ... it was a coincidence that when we met him again, it was at Glendalough. Gladys Wynne, who was a water-colour artist, lived there, as did Jimmy Esmond, and they, with Stanley and Carew, were instrumental in forming an art group. They organised an exhibition of their work in a hall near the Upper Lake and Sean Keating, President of the Royal Hibernian Academy, opened it. In his speech he said, 'My wife likes Glendalough, but I don't. I can't understand why anyone bothers to paint it.' That didn't go down too well with the local people.
Her nephew Billy Wynne, who never flinched from speaking seriously to people about the most important matters, spoke to her not long before her death about her faith, and she realised that she was "no better than the next one." She told me that she came to a real faith for the first time then. Billy, when I told him about this after her death, said she came to a greater commitment, but didn't feel she lacked faith before.

Gladys died in April 1968. The Rector's wife wrote of her funeral:
On the day that Stanley buried Gladys Wynne from Glendalough, a gale tore across the land and hurtled round Derralossary Church. Stanley and she had often gone painting together and once, in Glenmacnass Valley, as they made their way down to the river they had to climb a barbed-wire fence. Gladys' long tweed skirt was caught on the barbs and, legs and grey woollen stockings torn, she had to be extricated. After that her friends told the eighty-five-year old not to join Stanley on his painting expeditions again.On that wild winter's day of her funeral, with the stunted trees in Derralossary graveyard bending to the ground by the force of the gale, at the very moment of committal, the wind whipped the stole from round Stanley's neck and flung it into the open grave. Was Gladys saying a last, mischievous farewell to him?
Gladys is now a sought-after artist, as this account from May 1999 shows:
Another very fine Irish woman artist included in the Mealy's sale is landscape painter Gladys Wynne, born in 1876. Daughter of a Church of Ireland rector, she spent much of her life in Co Wicklow, which was a favourite subject for her watercolours. Lot 480 (£400-£600), however, shows the bandstand in St Stephen's Green, Dublin, looking beyond over the trees to the roofline of buildings, including the Shelbourne Hotel.
Gladys' great-niece, Sophie Wynne Evans, has sent us these memories, after finding this web page (thanks, Sophie):
It was such a delight to find unexpected information about Gladys Wynne (Aunt Gladys) a lovely lady whom I was too young to remember as to how she looked except for a vaque impression of lots of soft grey hair in a haphazard bun and long skirts, but I do remember that her spirit as perceived by a small child was one of gentleness and humour.

I loved visiting her cottage in Glendalough with my grandmother and grandfather Stella and Geoffrey Wynne who lived in Fan na Greine, a cottage further down the valley.

The loveliest memory I have of her is that when I came to visit she used to hang liquorice allsorts from a tree in her garden, and she used to help me pick them. I was utterly convinced that liquorice allsort trees grew naturally and that she was lucky enough to grow the only one in Ireland. It was a magical moment walking past the cottage into what seems to me now as a separated area of the garden and running to the the bright neon sweets hanging from the tree.

What kindness that was to prepare such a treat for a little girl.

Gladys' headstone

An on-line record of Derralossary churchyard includes:

No.51
In Loving Memory
of EDITH GLADYS WYNNE
daughter of Ven. G.R. WYNNE D.D.
Archdeacon of Aghadoe
died 24th March 1960 [should be 1968]
aged 91 years

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills”
Psalm 121


A few of Gladys Wynne's pictures

If you own one or more of her pictures and would like to add them to the on-line gallery, please contact david(at)parsonsd.co.uk.

View of the Upper Lake, Glendalough View of the Upper Lake, Glendalough View of the Lower Lake, Glendalough
The Sugarloaf Mountain, Co. Wicklow A group of cottages by the seaside A group of cottages by the seaside - detail A group of cottages by the seaside - detail A group of cottages by the seaside - signature Turf-cutting in an Irish bog

Just for fun, there's a fuzzy black and white picture of Gladys with me as a toddler here.

The Art Price website lists the last 33 of her pictures to come up at auction (it is not clear whether similar titles mean a resale). Subjects included:

Some internet images







Breeze blowing on top of Derrybawn near Glendalough

Auction Houses

These auction houses have sold Gladys' work:
  • Christie's
  • Christies - Hamilton Osborne King
  • Doyle New York
  • Gorringes
  • James Adams
  • Whyte's
  • ARTINFO.com

    A lst of pictures that have come up at auction.