Wendela Boreel 1895-1985
Born in France, she studied at the Slade from 1911 under Henry Tonks where she met Christiana Cutter and Marjorie Lilly. She went on to study at the Westminster School of Art under Sickert and Gilman and quickly struck up a close friendship with Sickert. Marjorie Lilly remembered that Sickert’s ‘interest in gouache was stimulated by the brilliant studies produced by his pupil and friend, Wendela Boreel’. For a short period she acted as Sickert’s assistant and adopted many of his methods, also becoming a highly accomplished etcher. Her first solo exhibition was staged at the Walker Gallery, London in 1919 and she also began showing regularly with the New English Art Club, Frank Rutter’s Allied Artists’ Association and the London Group. In 1923 she was elected an associate of the Royal Society of Etchers. She concentrated on subjects of London life using many of Sickert’s compositional devices whilst developing a colour palette more akin to Gilman. Her images of London proved popular and her work was featured in the 1924 publication The Artist’s London published by John Castle. During the 1930s she returned to live in Mougins, France and from then on her output was limited.
“You are the goddamnest, tiresome little cat living. But I love you all the same”
wrote Walter Sickert in 1915 to his pupil and amorata Wendela Boreel.
WENDELA BOREEL PRINTS FOR SALE
Was born Edith Wandela on 18 March 1895 at Pau ( Basse Pyranees) Her mother Edith Margaret, nee Ives was American and her Dutch father Jonkheer R.J.R.Boreel was in the Diplomatic Service.
“ I remember Pau so clearly, just like yesterday”, she says, “it was a great place, with fine shops, full of English families and very fashionable”. She came to live in England when her father was posted to London.
“ I showed some aptitude for drawing and was sent to the Slade in 1911, where I worked under Henry Tonks-he was very frightening.my poor mother was so shocked, sure that my downfall was taking place at the Slade from the moment, one day while collecting me, she saw a nude male model dash down a corridor from one life class to another.to attend the life classes you had to get Tonks’ signature to say your drawing was up to standard-when the girl in front of me asked him, Tonks just looked at her drawing and said ‘Can you knit?’. My turn came and I asked : he looked at my drawing and said ‘Cant you see its wrong?’ ‘Yes ‘ a timid voice got out ‘that’s what I’m here for. For you to put it right’ So Tonks gave his signature.”
At the Slade Wendela Boreel met and became friends with Marjorie Lilly and Christiana Cutter. The three attended Sickert’s evening classes at the Westminster Technical Institute where Wendela was singled out by Sickert.
“ One evening Sickert said to me ‘I want to see you in my office afterwards” I was vey frightened and did not want to stop going to the classes.to my surprise he said ‘ your drawing is far too good for here, ill install you in a studio in Mornington Crescent where you will paint each morning and then come and see me in the afternoon.so I became Sickert’s petit slave to do all and be at his beck and call. I worshipped him but when he proposed marriage I pointed out that I was 18 and he 54.None the less I learned a great deal from him and he taught me to etch. We went to a boxing match where I did an etching and I remember he loved the crowd shouting ‘don’t hit him there, hit him in the kitchen’ he took me to the Old Bedford where we both did etchings and I can still remember ‘That Old Fashioned Mother of Mine ‘ Vesta Tilley and such favourites as I do Like To Be Beside the Seaside”
“ At his studio at 19 Fitzroy Street I used to mix paints and square his canvases. Each day I would sit with Sickert, and he would incessantly talk, there’d be a knock at the door, and immediately his finger would fly to his mouth and he would say ‘ssshh” Walter Taylor would come in and remain quite silent. Nina Hamnet I much admired, but Sickert, although he liked her told me not to visit her ‘It’s a waste of time’ he would say.
Then there were Sickert’s famous breakfasts during which Marjorie, Chrissie and myself would rush round clearing up, dashing down Charlotte Street.to get rolls, marmalade, butter and coffee. Who do I remember? Well- Diana Manners in a long trailing dress; the Sitwells, Osbert and Sachie, grand and and slightly pompous. In their Guards Uniforms; Roger Fry , Spencer Gore – he gave us each a picture-Iris Tree, Paul Konody and Frank Rutter and there were others who used to put Sickert’s etchings in their pockets. He used to be amused when I would try and stop them. When I remonstrated he said’ No matter, I am very flattered they should want them’
As the war went on these ‘At Homes” became depleted by the absence of colleagues at the Front “ I remember being with Sickert when he heard that Spencer Gore had died-that was the only time I saw him really upset. The war touched everyone and Chrissie, Marjorie and I used to go and help in a canvas Military Hospital in Regents Park. I remember it as a very serious and sad period; you would see a young boy’s face, take his letter for posting, and the next moment he was dead. They all seemed so very young.
“I had moved into Tite Street with my parents, just up from the house Oscar Wilde had lived in. we had the Hope Nicholsons on one side and the Schusters on the other. Frankie and Adela Shuster were brother and sister and had been friends of Wildes to such an extent that Adela went to Paris and paid all his debts after his death. The Schusters were the focus of the artistic life of the street, together with Whistlers White House opposite and Sargent’s studio. My mother and I became firm friends with them and through their parties and dinner I met Edward Elgar , W.B. Yeats , Thomas Hardy, Siegfried Sassoon, Roger Fry, Martin Hardie, and Glynn Philpot. Sickert was an occasional visitor too. Once he said with a wink in the direction of Frank Schuster ‘a pansy in my time was just a flower’
“In Tite Street there was a handsome Argentinian who was mad about dancing the Tango and me. Gwen Le Galleon thought the two of us should run an art school in the house with a nude model to attract in thr boys who should, she said “ Paint, pay and go’ There was Enid Ridell who had a hand made BMW sports car which she drove at speed with one hand covering her bad eye. Then in Cheyne Walk there was the Blue Cockatoo , a restaurant which I liked. And Ethel Sandys, who I didn’t. The fact is that Sickert principally because of her money-although she did have an artistic talent. I used to dread going there because she bored me and I think everyone. She made a cult of being affected and appearing to be clever.
"Sickert taught me a lot but I think I developed as myself, unlike Sylvia Gosse who I think followed him too slavishly and always wanted to marry him, as did Therese Lessore who in fact eventually did. I remember Therese was very jealous of Sickert’s attentions to me and his calling me a `little cat’, which could be taken both ways. I last saw Sylvia Gosse at Villeneuve les Avignon.
“In 1919 I had my first one man show at the Walker gallery in Bond Street to which Frankie and Adela Shuster came, bringing with them a wounded boy called Anzy whose real name was Leslie George Wylde. A terrific horseman, he was a Captain in the Canterbury regiment of the ANZAC forces and came from New Zealand. he had been in the Dardanelles where he had lost his leg.’Nunky’ as Frank Schuster was known, had met him when he stopped by his bed in Lady Astor’s Hospital. He was fascinated by the coincidence of his name and the fact that he had a hooded eye just like Oscar Wilde . Frankie was attracted by his manner and looks and came almost to adopt him, leaving all his money to him on his death.
"We married and in due course had a son. We lived in a marvelous house at Bray called ‘the Hut’, which Anzy renamed “ The Long White Cloud”. The House also had an island called Queen’s Eight which we rented to McGary, who was the barman at Whites Club.Anzy had been made a member of whites by Frank Schuster and used to get depressed and angry when they called him The Colonial (being a New Zealander) Sickert turned up at Tite Street one evening and Anzy told him about the rare animals of New Zealand , including the fact that he had shot a kakapo. Sickert said amazing as he had spent his life ‘overshooting them’ Despite a lifestyle which included a specially adapted Rolls Royce fitted with a hand clutch which he was able to drive with great dexterity despite his physical disability, a yacht moored at Cannes, and the Hut at Bray, Anzy was given to occasional bouts of drinking to offset the depression caused by no longer being able to ride. He died in 1935, largely as a result of his war wounds.
After her husband’s death Wendela lived in France escaping via Portugal to America during the war, returning afterwards to Switzerland and the South of France where she lives today.
Wendela Boreel exhibited with The London Group, the New English Art Club, the R.A.,the Women's Academy,the Allied Artists Association ad the Royal society of Painter Etchers. She had one man shows at the Walker Gallery in 1919 and 1922(with Marjorie Lilly and Christiana Cutter), at the Redfern gallery in 1925,1928,and 1935, the Godfrey Phillips Gallery in 1928 and 1931 (with Marjorie Lilly), the No.SRN Gallery, Lisbon in 1943, the Beaux Arts Gallery ,London in 1944,the Gallery Paul Vallotton, Lausanne, in 1961 and at the Michael Parkin gallery, London in 1974 (The Sickert Women and the Sickert Girls)and 1980
The Critic wrote in the New Age in 1923 that
"Miss Wendela Boreel is a credit to the 'Sickert' method of teaching"
Frank Rutter referred to an etching of hers as "like an early Whistler in its precision of drawing".
The Morning Post called her a "courageous eclectic" and the Times said that her "actual handling of the medium is freer, looser and slicker than her masters' (Sickert)
MICHAEL PARKIN 1980