Antique book of watercolours by John Marshall-West, inscribed inside front cover ‘John W H West’ with ‘13th L I’ written below. Later inscribed ‘John Marshall-West ‘95’. A collection of 14 watercolours with pencil drawings of what appears to be Table Mountain in Cape Town, two Zulu women and a Western woman in contemporary clothing. There are also sketches of military wagons and tents and a train station in a township. The spire of Graaff-Reinet Church in South Africa appears as a distant silhouette in one of the watercolours as do more traditional African homesteads. Other watercolours appear to be more English in their country landscape subjects. West also experiments with the painting of flags.
Book Condition: Good. Black leather spine loose, worn to head and tail and corners of the black cloth boards. Four pages apparently cut out and two watercolours loose. Paintbrush/pencil holder to upper edge of bottom board. Measures 9 x 6 inches.
John William Henry Marshall-West 1858 – 1928
Born in Melbourne, Australia, the son of a Gentleman, John West moved back to the UK in 1863. He was schooled in London and joined the 13th Light Infantry, Prince Albert’s Somersetshire Regiment thereafter. Based in Devonport, his first overseas posting, as Lieutenant, was in the Colony of Natal in South Eastern Africa until 1879. Pencil drawings in his earliest sketchpad appear to show evidence of his time with the Zulu people. As he rose through the ranks to Captain in the following years, he was to become a highly respected military instructor in London, travelling extensively both privately and with the army. As Lieutenant Colonel, he received the South Africa Medal with the Cape Colony clasp following his active service between 1899 and 1902 in the second Boer War.
Born West, he was later to attach his mother’s maiden name – Marshall - to his own, becoming Marshall-West at some point in the mid 1890s. Occupying significant social and military status, John West married Julia, the widow of Colonel Hugh Millett, in 1887. His only child, Evelyn Lovett, was born 2 years later and he adopted the daughter of his wife, Edith Maude Millett, who was to become a highly celebrated actress in the last decade of the 19th century. John William Henry Marshall-West died in 1928 in Surrey.
Although he was not trained as an artist, his work shows great mastery of watercolour and the use and mixing of colour. He demonstrates significant competence at the impression of space, movement and perspective and depicts water and sky with considerable realism. Buildings and sailing boats are executed with architectural and graphic accuracy and his depiction of characters appears to capture personality and spirit. He came from an artistic background, his mother being a capable artist and his aunt, Emily Mary Marshall, producing considerable watercolours of significant merit. His brother, Algernon Edward West, was to pursue an education at Art College in London at the age of 25.
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