Sturrock, Mary Newbery

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Sturrock, Mary Newbery

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  • Newbery, Mary Arbuckle

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Mary Newbery Sturrock (1892-1985), née Mary Arbuckle Newbery, was a Scottish artist who worked primarily in watercolour, embroidery and ceramics. The daughter of Francis Henry Newbery, Director of The Glasgow School of Art 1885-1918, and Jessie Newbery, designer, embroiderer and Glasgow Girl, she grew up in Glasgow with her elder sister Elsie (Margaret Elliot). Between 1911 and 1914, Mary studied in the Life School of Drawing and Painting at The Glasgow School of Art.

Her closest friend and artistic contemporary was Cecile Walton (1891-1956), daughter of the artists Helen and Edward Arthur Walton. The Newberys and Waltons were close family friends, renting houses near to each other in Suffolk as part of a wider artistic community that visited the area. This community also included William Oliver Hutchison and Eric Robertson, who became Cecile Walton’s first husband. A 1912 painting by Cecile depicts Eric and Mary posed languorously in a garden, Robertson reclining and Newbery sitting with a crown of flowers in her lap; a nod toward the symbolism that flowers hold in Newbery’s own work. The painting, ‘Eric Robertson, 1887 - 1941. Artist. With Mary Newbery, 1890 – 1985’, is held by the National Galleries of Scotland and displayed at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Cecile Walton later introduced Mary to her own husband, the painter Alick Riddell Sturrock (1885-1953). The pair met in Suffolk and married on 21 October 1918 once Alick had returned from the First World War. Their wedding was held at Corfe Castle in Dorset, where Mary’s parents had moved upon Francis Newbery’s retirement. After the war, both Mary and Alick exhibited as part of the Edinburgh Group of artists, initially formed in 1912 and reconstituted in 1919, alongside artists including Cecile Walton, Eric Robertson, David Macbeth Sutherland and Dorothy Johnstone. The group held annual exhibitions at the New Gallery in Shandwick Place in 1919, 1920 and 1921. In the 1920 exhibition, a set of Mary’s embroidered cushions were reviewed favourably in The Scots Pictorial, which noted Newbery’s ‘fine sense of colour and design’.

In 1926, Mary and Alick moved to Gatehouse of Fleet, where they lived until 1934. In 1935, the couple moved to Edinburgh and lived at 2 Mansfield place until around 1945, when they moved to 13 South Gray Street where Mary would live the rest of her life. GSA holds a number of copies of a hand-drawn and printed change of address card for this move. Between 1935 and 1952, while living in Edinburgh, Mary submitted at least one watercolour per year to the Royal Scottish Academy exhibition. Examples include 'A July bouquet' (1940) and 'Dusty miller posy' (1946), which are demonstrative of Mary’s artistic style and practice and her unceasing interest in natural themes and subjects. Newbery also exhibited across her career at the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, where she showed some of her earliest works. Between 1911 and 1949, a number of pieces exhibited in the Royal Scottish Academy were also shown in Glasgow.

Mary’s best known and most recognisable works are watercolour paintings of flowers, which she made throughout her life. Her early work was especially influenced by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whom, a close friend of the Newbery family, she had grown up around and often watched draw. Towards the end of his career, Mackintosh worked on his own botanical watercolours, and the two would often paint the same flowers. Mary would provide their Latin names so Mackintosh could inscribe them correctly. Whilst Newbery Sturrock and Mackintosh remained close friends throughout his life, her later work deviated somewhat from his influence and became more naturalistic.

Following the death of her husband in 1953, Mary travelled extensively. Later in life, she gave various interviews to art historians and biographers about her knowledge of The Glasgow School of Art, her father Francis Newbery and both her own and her father’s relationship to Mackintosh. For example, in 1973 she spoke with June Bedford and Ivor Davies for Connoisseur magazine about Mackintosh, and in the early 1980s, spoke with Anthony Jones (director of GSA 1980-6) about the history of The Glasgow School of Art, Fra Newbery and Mackintosh.

In 1983, a touring retrospective devoted to the Edinburgh Group was held at the City Art Centre Edinburgh in which both Mary and Alick were profiled. Mary exhibited examples of work across the applied and decorative arts, including floral watercolours, embroidery, ceramics and a sketchbook containing pen, ink and watercolour sketches of figures and flowers. Two years later, in 1985, Mary passed away aged 93.


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Newbery, Francis Henry (1855-1946)

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Newbery, Francis Henry

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Sturrock, Mary Newbery

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Newbery, Jessie Wylie (1864-1948)

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Newbery, Jessie Wylie

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Sturrock, Mary Newbery

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