Katharine Church (1910-1999) Ferns, Watercolour, Gouache

Katherine ‘Kitty’ Church was an important figure in British Art, exhibiting with her fellow Neo-Romantic artists and in all the major social sets of that time. Sadly due to the lack of retrospectives (unlike those given to her male counterparts) she has been almost completely forgotten by the public.

Born in Highgate in 1910, Church’s father was killed during World War One in 1916 in Lille. She studied art at the Brighton School of Art, at the Royal Academy Schools between 1930 and 1933, and then at the Slade School of Fine Art in 1933 and 1934.

In 1933, she met the painter Ivon Hitchens and painted with him. During one weekend at his Suffolk cottage she was modelling for him when Church invited Myfanwy Evans to join her. The other house guest was John Piper who was sent to collect Evans from the station. It was their first meeting and they went on to marry.

During the early phase of her career, she exhibited regularly with the Royal Academy. In 1933, she had her first solo exhibition at the Wertheim Gallery run by Lucy Carrington Wertheim, patron of Christopher Wood and Frances Hodgkins.

Hodgkins painted a portrait of Church, Portrait of Kitty West, in 1939, which is now held by the Tate.

Church exhibited with the New English Art Club and showed regularly with The London Group. From 1937 to 1947, she exhibited her work at the Lefevre Gallery. In 1954, she was invited to take part in the exhibition Figures in their Setting at the Tate Gallery. She was invited to exhibit at the National Museum of Wales in 1982. In 1988, a retrospective of her work was held at the Duncalfe Galleries in Harrogate.

Church married Anthony West (son of writer Rebecca West & H. G. Wells) in 1937; the couple had one son (Edmund West) and one daughter (Caroline Frances West).

Among the couple’s close friends were the painter Julian Trevelyan, John Piper and the Bloomsbury writer Frances Partridge.

The Wests divorced in 1952 and Kitty moved to Sutton House in Dorset.

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