Born in England in 1935, Jenny spent the first decade of her life at boarding school. Separated from her beloved mother, Jenny was forced to stand on her own feet at a very young age, while harsh discipline at school molded this little girl into a willful, headstrong young woman. Despite her parents’ wish that she pursue a university degree, Jenny had dreams of becoming a famous actress or even a pilot, but once thwarted (to her intellectual parents’ relief and her dismay) Jenny was persuaded to take a hated typing and shorthand course. This led to an opportunity in reporting for the local newspaper and also led to Jenny and her first husband crossing paths. Eleven years and two children later, Jenny was widowed. Having moved on from journalism to antique dealing, she also attempted to move on in her personal life. Neither of her subsequent marriages proved to be successful, but her antique business flourished. Throughout Jenny was searching for a more fulfilling lifestyle, trying her hand at playwriting, producing and even, song writing. It was not until her sixties, when Jenny became involved in an in-depth program of self-discovery, that she was turned to painting as a means of expression and personal therapy. Finally, Jenny had found her true niche. The joy of creating and bringing a canvas to life provided her with a peace and happiness she’d spent much of her life searching for.
Today, in her 80’s Jenny is a vibrant, exuberant lady, with an amazing talent, creating paintings that speak not only of studious effort and growth in her art, but are also a testament to years of a life fully lived.
Jenny moved to South Africa in 2002, and became a permanent resident in 2008. She lives and paints in the beautiful Western Cape town of Hermanus, which has taken this artist to heart. Her Studio/Gallery is located at 19 High Street.
Jenny writes: “ Ever since my teens I have visited art galleries in London, Venice, Amsterdam and Paris and when I was an antique dealer I bought and sold many lovely paintings dating from the l6th to the 20th centuries, so I have absorbed a lot of different influences. But I suppose the artist I would most like to be, for her delicacy of touch and depth of emotional expression, is Gwen John – a little known English artist (except among the cognoscenti) from the middle of the 20th century. She fell hopelessly and fatally in love with the French sculptor Rodin and John’s modest paintings, for me, epitomize a very feminine expression of longing and loneliness.
I seldom know what I am going to paint before starting – except when someone or something poses, obviously. For me the challenge is in actually picking up my faithful palette knife and making a start! Once I have done that my subject begins to reveal itself – or not; sometimes an almost complete portrait can appear in minutes, others can take literally years to come to the point where it makes me sing inside!
My painting life began with landscapes and flowers – no shortage of beauty and inspiration there, but my son complained he had run out of adjectives and couldn’t I come out of my comfort zone and paint something else? So, after an inspiring walk around Irma Stern’s house in 2010, I plucked up the courage to ask a beautiful young friend to sit for me. I discovered I love painting people. It’s not easy because expressions change in the blink of an eye, so I try to capture (subconsciously, rather than consciously) the essence of the person as I see it, or rather, as I sense it. Sometimes, startlingly real, a face comes onto a canvas without anyone being in front of me…. I don’t know who they are or where they come from. I love these people who come out of the ether as much as I love those friends who sit for me so generously.
Joshua writes: “ Mingling knife strokes and colour to achieve a nearly ethereal quality in oil on canvas, the contrasting intensity of Jenny’s portraits is almost shocking. There is a sense of knowledge in the eyes of her models as though they have experienced more than they are willing to share; yet with what appears to be some intrinsic understanding of these experiences, this artist manages to capture a depth and emotion which urges the viewer to linger.”
View a documentary of Jenny on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dK2km_x9-as