Guaraja Beach and the Mystery of Jane Vestey

Jane Vestey was born in 1928, at Virginia Water.  The earliest incentive to visual art was given to her as a child by Derek Hill, who showed her how to paint dolls’ furniture. In 1946 she studied life drawing at the Heatherley School of Art, and her apprenticeship continued with landscape and still-life painting at the Camberwell School of Art. It was not, however, until 1949 that the Cezanne’s in the Louvre thrust into this young artist’s hand the instrument with which to start expressing her own vision.

It is evident that Miss Vestey’s pictures of Brazilian and West Indian subjects were painted while the impression made by Cezanne was still beneficently strong. By comparison, her earlier canvases are exercises in elimination that, while showing aesthetic gifts, do not quite succeed in filling out the picture space with interesting paint. Much more lively and appealing-at least to my eye are the southern compositions, which their tented palm fronds, their gaiety of sea and sky: here the painter’s delight in the vivid surprises of the landscape has lent assurance to both hand and eye.

No extravagant claims need to be made for so young a painter at this stage of her career. It is enough to point out that she is the kind of artist who responds to the poetry of nature in a specifically painterly manner: none of her pictures leads me to suspect that she would be better employed in writing novels. 
Edward Sackville-West

This blog post is about the painting Guaraja Beach by Jane Vestey from 1950. But also it’s about me trying to find more out about her. She is an artist from a rich family. She was good enough to be exhibited at the Redfern Gallery twice, but very little evidence on her art exists online and it was only in an old newspaper that I found a record of her exhibiting.


 Jane Vestey – Guaraja Beach, 1950

Jane McLean Vestey lived at Thurlow Hall, Great Thurlow, Haverhill, Suffolk. The daughter of Ronald Arthur Vestey and Florence Ellen Vestey (nee McLean Luis). Jane was born on the 8th April 1928 into the famous Vestey family of Blue Star Line Shipping, her father being a Director. At the age of 10 Jane named and launched the Blue Star line ship the ‘Adelaide Star’.

She travelled to Brazil on 13th April 1950 on a temporary visa. In Brazil her family had a fleet of ships. The Painting ‘Guaraja, Brazil’ would have been painted at this time. It is assumed that because her family owned a shipping line, travel for her was less of an issue than it might have been for other people at the time.


 Brazilian Copy of Jane’s Visa in 1950.

‘Guaraja Beach’ was exhibited in the Redfern Gallery in 1951, Catalogue Number 124. It was bought by S.J.Dale Esq on 2nd May, 1951. Other artists showing at the exhibition were: Thomas Buford Meteyard, Roy Hobdell and Gordon Crook.

Redfern Gallery, 20 Cork St, W.1. – 2-26 May 1951 – Paintings by the American Impressionist Thomas Buford Mcteyard; Roy Hobdell; Jane Vestey; hand-woven tapestries by Gordon Crook. Exhib. closes May 26.  

Vestey exhibited again at the Redfern Gallery as the painting Les Baux was sold at an exhibition in June, 1952. Jane Vestey married John Richard Baddeley (son of a Solicitor) on 23 June 1956. They had three children, Mark, Melissa and Edward.

Mr. R.A. Vestey, on behalf of the Blue Star Line, acknowledged and then proposed the toast of “The Builders.”At the ceremony which followed, Sir Allan Grant, a director of John Brown & Company, presented an antique diamond feather brooch of 1800 to Miss Jane Vestey, who had named and launched the Adelaide Star.


 Jane Vestey – Les Baux

Vestey died on the 22nd June 1999.

Shipbuilding and Shipping Record – 1950 – Volume 76 – Page 188
New Statesman – 1951 – Volume 41 – Page 548


The process of a picture is always interesting to me. I like seeing how a drawing is made, abstracted and translated into other mediums. Here are three versions of the same view of Thameside by John Minton. After the Second World War Minton took on a series of paintings of London’s Riverside and Docklands in rather bold contrast to some of his muted war works.

 John Minton – The Barge, 1946

 John Minton –‘Rotherhithe from Wapping’, 1946

 John Minton – Thameside, 1948

Ealing Movie Posters

Ealing Studios have many wonderful films, but there was a period of time when they would hire fine-art artists to design promotional ephemera and posters.

A good example is for the movie ‘Painted Boats’ from 1945. The artwork for the film was designed by John Piper. The painting of the Canal boat has a graphic device painted in by Piper, like the top of a decorative headstone.


 The Movie Poster for Painted Boats, 1945.


 The original painting for the film poster by John Piper. 


In the credit sequence of the film there is a stylised version of the graphic device used by John Piper – I am unsure if Ealing Studios gave him it to paint first, or if he painted it and they cleaned it up for the film. The backdrop to this maybe a pro-type painting used as the movies title sequence as the trees are not the same in the image above.

The posters for Ealing Studios films feature artwork by many of the era’s greatest artists including John Piper, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, Edward Ardizzone and Mervyn Peake, while the acting talent is a roll-call of many of Britain’s greatest performers. 

Even when commissioned, the studio didn’t always use the artwork by the artists, ‘The Bells Go Down’, 1942 was John Pipers first work with Ealing and although paid for his efforts, they didn’t use the artwork for the poster.


 The Bells Go Down, 1942. Poster prototype design by John Piper.

Ealing’s advertising department was headed up by S. John Woods, who trained as an artist and graphic designer, before working in a variety of advertising roles, including a stint at Twentieth Century Fox in the 1930s. In 1943, he joined Ealing to help realise the vision of the studio’s chief publicist, Monja Danischewsky.

Unusually for a designer working in film advertising, Woods wasn’t afraid to bring politics into the equation. Throughout the 1930s he moved in artistic circles that included Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, soaking up the energy and fervour of the interwar generation, cultivating a love of British abstract and surrealist art and actively contributing to exhibitions and articles challenging the established order.

Below is a curious mixture of Ealing Films own graphics department and artists work, in this case using Ronald Searle’s cartoons based on the film and using his St Trinian’s girls series.


 The Lavender Hill Mob – Ealing Studios with decorations by Ronald Searle, 1951.

Below is another drawing by Ronald Searle for the Danish version of the poster. The drawing of Alex Guinness is wonderful.


 Danish Poster for Masser af Guld – Lots of Gold. The Lavender Hill Mob, 1951.

The artist John Minton also made two poster designs for Ealing Studios for the movie ‘Eureka Stockade’, one landscape, one portrait. At first it might look like they are the same image cropped, but the way the man above the cartwheel handles his gun, the riders at the end of the stockade and the man with the razor-blade behind the soldier show they are not the same image, just very similar.


 John Minton – Eureka Stockade, 1949


 John Minton – Eureka Stockade, 1949

Here are two Posters by Edward Bawden, one for ‘Hue & Cry’ and the other is ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’. The mixed perspectives of this and the light and dark boys used in both are wonderful. Both posters have hand-drawn typography.


 Edward Bawden – Hue & Cry Poster, 1947


 Edward Bawden – The Titfield Thunderbolt Poster, 1952


 John Piper – Pink String and Sealing Wax Poster, 1945.

Above is the poster designed by John Piper and like in ‘Painted Boats’ the opening credits also used a similar design to the poster. The opening credits image actually comes from his ’Brighton Aquatints’ folio of prints, published in 1939. The poster must be adapted from the drawing.


 John Piper – Kemp Town, 1939


Page 2 – Press Release – Ealing Films – Light and Dark
Ealing and the art of the film poster

Minton against Homophobia


 A photograph of John Minton.

In the Volumes of ‘The Listener’ that I own are curious features and letters. Below is a set-to between Dr. Marie Stopes and John Minton in the letters pages about Oscar Wilde’s homosexuality and the views of homosexuality as a whole in British society.

Homosexuality was still illegal in Great Britain in 1950 and yet John Minton was openly gay and lived at this time with his partner Ricky Stride, a bodybuilding ex-sailor. Marie Stopes set up the first birth control clinic as a way to implement eugenic beliefs she had within the Galton Institute (Even in the 50s long after it was ‘fashionable-thought’). She cut her son out of her will as he married a short-sighted woman (the daughter of ‘dam buster’ Barnes Wallis) and that she believed his children would inherit this condition.

The homophobic views of Stopes are ones that have echoed throughout time unjustly and Minton’s defence is bold. Ten years later it would be the London of David Hockney and free love, but in post-war Britain, the prejudices and intolerance where rife as the country struggled with Christianity and meaning for what they had just ‘fought for’.

Re: Oscar Wilde and Alfred Douglas – January, 5th, 1950.
  Sir, It is indeed extraordinary that Herbert Read should state in your pages that ‘Lord Alfred Douglas emerges as the most complete cad in history’ simply on the basis of the hysterical and deranged outpourings of Oscar Wilde in prison. Wilde was then in a condition which any psychiatrist can recognise as bordering on insanity owing to the excessive shock to his self-esteem of prison, and the exposure of the abnormal and filthy practices which he had been indulging in with stable boys.

One has only to look at the portrait of the gross middle-aged abnormal man in his forties beside the exquisite body and face of the young man in the early twenties who is supposed to have ruined the experienced elder to realise that Herbert Read has a curious sense of values.
Lord Alfred Douglas’ magnificent sonnets (broadcast not long ago as being second only to those of Shakespeare) and the facts of his sensitiveness and his generosity to Wilde will outlive such malignancy as is current at the moment.
– Yours, etc. Dr Marie Stopes. Dorking

Re: Dr Marie Stopes – January, 12th, 1950.
  Sir, In her letter concerning Wilde and Douglas it is indeed distressing that someone of Dr. Marie Stopes’ eminence should refer to Wilde’s homosexuality with such bigoted moral fervour. The enormous contribution made throughout history, particularly in the arts-to society by homosexuals should surely make for a more tolerant and sympathetic understanding than to refer with such scorn to Wilde’s ‘abnormal and filthy practices’. In this country where the same vicious law which imprisoned Wilde still operates one looks to those with pretensions to a scientific approach not to be victims of prejudice and intolerance but to give a lead for at least a saner and more comprehensive attitude towards the homosexual in society.
– Yours, etc. John Minton. London, N.W.8


 John Minton – Ricky Stride.

† The Listener – 1950. Vol XLIII #1093
‡ The Listener – 1950. Vol XLIV #1094