Katharine Jowett Artist, born Catharine Alice Wheatley

Artistic Career Katharine Jowett is known for her works using coloured linoleum block prints, printed with oil-based inks on fine laid paper. Very little is known about Jowett’s training, how she managed to learn how to carve and print colour linoleum cuts. Perhaps she was self taught, although there were other European ladies such as Bertha Lum doing similar block print work at the time. The often ‘luminous’ impressionistic Peking street scenes were self-carved and self-printed by the artist, using layers of colours, mainly created in the 1930’s. Limited editions of perhaps 200 of each print and about 25 designs are recognised. Most small, perhaps 25x15cm, often signed in pencil on the lower right margin, Katharine Jowett. She usually added a a thick border in almost arts and crafts style to frame the scene.

It is said that in 1940 Robert Muller, an influential shin-hanga art collector and dealer, took tea with Jowett at her home. Muller certainly had Jowett prints in his collection. It is said Chairman Mao had a set of her prints in his study. Her block prints continue to be sought after by modern collectors, depicting a vanished world, destroyed in the upheavals of the twentieth century. 

References cited by various art gallery websites: Meech, Japonisme: Graphic Arts in the 20th Century, in The New Wave, 1993, pp 50-51Devereux, http://www.hanga.com, 2008. Two of Jowett’s linoleum cuts were used to illustrate cultural essays that appeared in “The Christian Science Monitor” in 1934-35.” (I have been unable to access any of these 2021). Images of her pictures may be available on the internet. Anyone able to provide a copyright image of her work would be greatly appreciated by myself for educational genealogy talks, the websites and by the Sticklepath Heritage Group.

Personal Biography Catharine was born into a religious family. She was the daughter of Reverend Timothy Wheatley, minister at the Mint Methodist Church in Exeter. Originally from the North of England, Rev Wheatley had married into a Devon family, the Pearses of Sticklepath, who were early followers of John Wesley. The story is that in her early twenties, Catharine followed a Methodist missionary to China, but found in Peking that she did not want to marry him after all. Instead, she married Hardy Jowett, a prominent member of the British community in Peking, by whom she had two sons.

Her birth certificate according to GRO.gov shows Catharine Alice Wheatley was born 1882 S Quarter in Banbury Volume 03A Page 837 Mother’s maiden name Pearse.

In 1891 she is living with her parents and siblings in Lower Holloway, West Islington London. Grimsbury, Northamptonshire is given as her place of birth. Her father would have moved frequently as a Wesleyan minister as suggested by the varying birthplaces of his children. In 1901 she is with her grandmother Anna Pearse, in Littleham, Exmouth, Devon and Banbury, Devon is given as her birthplace. (Banbury is in Oxfordshire).

NOTE: Catharine lived in China for many years so is not (as far as I have found) in the England & Wales Census 1911, (1921) or 1939 register. Further evidence of her time in China may be available, if anyone knows how to investigate those records help would be appreciated. Evidence of her sea travel may also be found.

She was married in Hankow, the marriage was solemnised in HBU Consulate General Hankow on 28 Jan 1910, according to the provisions of the Foreign Marriage Acts 1892. The register entry shows Hardy Jowett, Batchelor, was a Missionary aged 38, resident at ?Changsha. His father Joshua Jowett, textile manufacturer was already deceased. Catharine Alice Wheatley, spinster, aged 27 of Hanyang, Hankow, daughter of Rev Timothy Wheatley Wesleyan minister. Witnesses include Emilie Pullan, Thomas G North, and Gilbert G??? As well as ???, H.M.Consul-General.

The Jowetts set up house in Peking and had two sons. Sadly she was widowed in 1936.
 During  the second world war she was interned by the Japanese in a camp in China. It is said she met a German Baron thee, to whom she was very attached. They never married. After the war, she returned to England and lived in Okehampton where her younger son was a well known GP and figure in the community. She continued to paint, but her later paintings, although charming, lack the vitality and interest of her Chinese pictures. She is not known to have made any further block prints.

Katharine died more than 20 years after her return. Probate confirms date of death 10 Dec 1972 and the Sticklepath burial register shows her ashes were interred 17 Jan 1973 in the Pearse family graveyard in Sticklepath near Okehampton, the village where her mother was born. (A further name anomaly in the burial register shows middle name Anne, which may be a typo, a copy only has been seen. Original should be checked). Probate granted 5 Apr 1973 in Bristol gives her first name as Katharine OR Catharine address as 2 Vicarage Rd Okehampton

The Findagrave Entry for her husband Hardy Jowett makes interesting reading.https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/232815387/hardy-jowett

Her own entry: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/232629748/katharine-jowett

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