Florence Kate Upton (1873-1922)
Florence Kate Upton (22 February 1873 – 16 October 1922). Upton was born in Flushing, New York, to British parents who had immigrated recently. She was the second of four children in a creative and slightly eccentric household. Florence's father, Thomas Harborough Upton, worked as a confidential clerk at the American Exchange Bank in New York. In 1884, the family moved from Flushing to central Manhattan, which was more convenient for her father's daily journey to his office. The National Academy of Design, located near the new home, offered free instruction to anyone who could qualify. This prompted her father to enrol in evening classes, and Florence, at 15 years old, joined him for the beginning of her formal art training. In June 1889, the family was placed in financial difficulty by the sudden death of Thomas Upton. Florence's mother, Bertha, had a trained singing voice and began to give voice lessons in the home. Her older sister Ethelwyn found work, while her younger siblings Alice and Desmond remained in school. Florence, at age 16, obtained work as a professional illustrator. Numerous publications existed at this time, mainly as vehicles for advertising and light fiction of varying merit. Some of the same authors whose stories appeared in the magazines went on to employ Florence to illustrate their novels or books of short stories. Finances eventually stabilised to such a degree that in 1893, the family was able to pay an extended visit to Bertha's relatives, the Hudsons, who lived in the Hampstead area of London. With an established reputation from her published work in New York, Florence had no difficulty in finding employment with London publishers. When the rest of the family returned to the United States, she opted to stay in England and began experimenting with ideas to supplement her income so that she could afford further art training. Although she made her living largely through illustration, she was nonetheless a very accomplished painter in her own right, described by her biographer, Edith Lyttleton as a considerable artist...accessible beyond the normal to sense impressions of colour and form. Upton studied under George Hitchcock in Egmond Hoef, Holland and became great friends with both George and Mrs Hitchcock (Hind). She exhibited at the Paris Salon and the Royal Academy, including several paintings depicting Holland, with which she had a particular affinity. In 1905 she exhibited “Le salon Jaune” at the International Exhibition in Nantes and gained the Medaille d’honneur. After the exhibition Florence was made “Societaire” of the “Societe Nationale des beaux Arts” After her death the picture was purchased by “Friends of Art” society in Baltimore and now hangs in their gallery. She was also an excellent portraitist and her subjects included her friend, the celebrated actress Mrs Patrick Campbell; indeed Upton's portrait was considered to be one of the finest of her and the actress cherished it until her death in 1940. She died on 16th October 1922 and is buried in Hampstead Cemetery. Her obituary in The Times rightly recognised that she was ‘first a painter and second a children's book illustrator’.