English Artist: Hannah Elizabeth Smith
Miss Edith Laura Smith (1868-aft. 1928), Principal of
Howard College and Sister-in-Law of the Artist
by Hannah Elizabeth Smith (1855-1919)
watercolor on ivory; housed in a later (not original to the portrait) gilt metal pendant frame
Formerly a holding of the Arturi Phillips Collection, this miniature portrait of Miss Smith
was featured on page 255 of Carmela Arturi and Frederick Roger Phillips'
"Dictionary of Miniature Painters 1870-1970".
About the Subject: The sixth of eight children born to Samuel Charles Smith (1823-1901) and Sarah Mills (1829-aft. 1891), Edith Laura Smith was born in 1868, in Clapham, Surrey, an affluent district of south-west London. One of her older brothers was Vincent Butler Smith, husband of the artist, Hannah Elizabeth Smith. (Thus, the artist and the subject of this portrait were both sisters-in-law and second cousins, as their respective Smith grandfathers were brothers.) Edith's father, Samuel Charles Smith (1823-1901) was a clergyman of the Church of England who also worked as a school master at various times in his life. Perhaps inspired by her father, Edith pursued a career in education (as did her brother, Vincent, husband of the artist). At the time this miniature portrait was painted, Edith was principal of Howard College, a boarding and day school for girls, located in Bedford, about 60 miles north of London. The earliest mention of her being associated with Howard College in public records dates to 1891, when she was recorded in the 1891 England Census as being an English governess (a resident instructor of English) at the school. She was 23 years old at the time. By 1894, she was named School Mistress (head teacher) of Howard College. She remained in that role until 1902, at which point she was appointed principal, succeeding Mrs. J. Compton-Burnett, who had served as principal for 25 years. She herself also remained principal for 25 years, retiring from Howard College in 1927, at the age of 59. The next year, she was recorded working as a private teacher in Leamington, Warwick. Research has uncovered no record of her life or death thereafter.
Copy of a photograph of Miss Edith Smith watching over some of her
students as they play croquet, as appeared in an advertisement
for Howard College in 1910.
About the Artist: The youngest of six children born to Alfred Newland Smith (1813-1876) and Catherine Gough (1814-ca. 1886), Hannah Elizabeth Smith was born in 1855, in Cheltenham, Gloucester (a mineral springs spa town, located 95 miles west of London). Her father was an accomplished landscape, cityscape and portrait painter in oils; and her grandfather, Daniel Newland Smith (1791-1839) was also a painter. No record has surfaced to indicate where Hannah was trained as an artist, but it is presumed that she received her earliest instruction from her father. Unlike her father, however, who is remembered to this day for his large oil paintings, she chose to become a painter of miniatures in watercolor on ivory. Hannah's older sister, Catherine Wilhemina Smith (1841-date of death unknown) also worked briefly as a miniature painter prior to her marriage in 1880 to a Peter Matthew Clarke, but there is no evidence of her having exhibited her work. Hannah herself was first identified in public records as a miniature painter in 1881, when she was listed as such in the 1881 England Census (living with her widowed mother in the London Borough of Lambeth). The following year, she married Vincent Butler Smith (1857-1922), her second cousin (their grandfathers, Daniel Newland Smith and Thomas Smith, were brothers). Vincent was a school master at Buxton College, a West Ham boarding school for boys aged 10-18. Although many young women of her generation discontinued painting upon getting married, Hannah continued painting throughout her married life. Over a 28 year period, between 1888 and 1916, she regularly exhibited her work at the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Miniature Society, and the Royal Society of Artists. Following in her footsteps, her daughter Constance Catherine Smith (1884-1961) also became a miniature painter. Three years after her last exhibition, Hannah Elizabeth Smith died in London at the age of 64, on May 13, 1919. Listed by Arturi Phillips (page 255), Benezit, Blättel (pages 840, 841), and Foskett (page 651).