Poppy Paintings – the mystery deepens.
Well, well, well. My plea for more information about my coincidence of paintings (see previous blog post) was placed more in hope than in expectation – but last night I received an email from Malcolm in Warkworth which went some way to slaking my original curiosity, but then opened up a new and intriguing mystery.
Malcolm told me that the “… painting in the Warkworth Museum was brought to NZ. by William and Ellen McElroy when they immigrated in the 1880’s. Mrs McElroy’s maiden name was Fleming and she was related to John Campbell who was already in NZ. Definitely Irish. Mrs McElroy died in 1935 and the painting remained in the family home till nearly the year 2000 when the spinster housekeeper of the family died and the property sold, many of the articles from the house coming to the museum.”
Malcolm played a part in getting those items into the museum so clearly has first hand information on the provenance of the Warkworth version of the Poppy Painting there. Unfortunately none of the names McElroy, nor Fleming, nor Campbell rang any bells so far as my genealogical researches are concerned on the Darcy link to my family.
However, the Irish dimension posed a certain possibility that one of those families may have crossed paths with my great-uncle Darcy in his youth, since he was born in Lancashire and they might have met in Liverpool, perhaps, or Darcy sold a painting somewhere in that neck of the woods which they stumbled across and bought.
The date of the McElroys` migration, however, poses a certain question relating to Will Darcy`s birth date! He was born, I believe, in 1871, so, if the McElroys emigrated in the LATE 1880`s, it is possible Will Darcy may have painted the New Zealand Poppy Picture in his teens without signing it, kept a copy and then copied that again later in his life when he had acquired more painting skills – the English version of the painting seems to have a little more finesse about the shadows and the poppy leaves, for example.
However, if the McElroys emigrated in the EARLY 1880s I would have said that, unless he was a child prodigy, it seems unlikely that a ten-year-old Will Darcy would have had the necessary skills to compose such a picture and execute it so well… interesting!
I suppose there is another possibility, of course, and that is that both pictures are simply independent copies of a third Original Poppy Painting, but perhaps that is stretching the curiosity of coincidence just a little TOO far for comfort! Or, maybe, Will Darcy was indeed a child prodigy, but in that case I would have expected such a story to have drifted down the generations as a family tale worth telling!
Will Darcy was, in fact a lace designer based in Nottingham and the records show that he was exhibiting paintings in Nottingham Art galleries and the Nottingham Museum between 1901 and 1931 during which time some 26 paintings were exhibited in his name. Whether the Poppy Painting was one of them I do not yet know but my Sherlockian senses have now been intrigued enough to pursue this puzzle a little further.
So, if anyone out there has any knowledge of Lace designers in Nottingham or art exhibitions in Nottingham I would love to hear more from you!! I might get lucky again! But I do want to say a special blogging “Thank you” to Malcolm to add to the personal email `thank you` I have already sent him!
Watch this space – I cannot wait for the next installment!