Bess Norris Tait
Bess Norris Tait
probably by Bess Norriss Tait
watercolour, 1900s or 1910s?
9 3/8 in. x 7 3/8 in. (238 mm x 187 mm)
Sitterback to top
- Elizabeth ('Bess') May Norris Tait (née Norris) (1878-1939), Watercolour and miniature painter. Sitter in 1 portrait, Artist associated with 1 portrait.
Artistback to top
- Elizabeth ('Bess') May Norris Tait (née Norris) (1878-1939), Watercolour and miniature painter. Artist associated with 1 portrait, Sitter in 1 portrait.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Rideal, Liz, Mirror Mirror: Self-portraits by Women Artists, 2001 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12 September 2001 to 20 January 2002), p. 53 Read entry
Born in Melbourne, Australia, where her father was a scientific chemist, Bess Norriss studied at Melbourne Art Gallery School and at the Slade School of Fine Art in London in 1905, specialising in watercolours and miniatures. In 1908 she married J. Nevin Tait, the UK representative of and partner in the Australian theatrical company J. & N. Tait. They had one son and one daughter and lived in Church Street, Chelsea.
Bess belonged to the Society of Women Artists and exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts and the Paris Salon (1908-36), the Goupil Gallery and the Grosvenor Gallery, both in London. She also exhibited in America and in Australia when she returned home on trips. She often portrayed musicians in her miniatures, but she also worked on a larger scale in watercolour. A member of the Royal Society for Painting in Watercolour, and from 1907 the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, her paintings were reproduced in the Studio and the Connoisseur magazines. In Who's Who in Art (1934) her recreations are listed as theatre, reading and music, and her club as the 'Soroptimist'. Francis Derwent Wood (1871-1926) made a bronze bust of her in 1921-2, which was purchased by the Chantrey Bequest for the Tate (then the National Gallery, Millbank) in 1926.
Portraying herself here with a jaunty hat and a smile, she gives the impression of a positive frame of mind. The fact that this is a quick sketch enhances the feeling of something dashed off for fun, not a full-blown, serious attempt at a portrait, but this too could be interpreted as part of her character and linked to her choice of medium - watercolour being essentially one of quick marks and decisions.
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 462
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
- Mirror Mirror: Self-portraits by women artists (12 September 2001 - 20 January 2002)
Events of 1900back to top
Current affairsThe Conservatives return to power, after the Prime Minister Lord Salisbury calls a general election, known as the 'Khaki election', on the back of huge jingoistic support for the Boer War.
The Labour Representation Committee (LRC) is founded from a coalition of socialist groups; they win two seats in the 1900 election and Ramsay Macdonald is appointed secretary. The Labour politician Keir Hardie is also returned to Parliament for Merthyr Tydfilin Wales.
Art and scienceGerman physicist Max Planck proposes the concept of the quantum theory. Sigmund Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams is published. In the text, Freud outlines his theory of dream analysis, crucial to the study of the unconscious, and introduces key concepts in psychoanalysis, such as the Ego.
The Paris International Exhibition, attended by more than 50 million people and including over 76,000 exhibitors, marks the heyday of Art Nouveau.
InternationalIn China the Boxer rebellion takes place. The Boxers were anti-imperialist and against foreign influence in trade, religion, politics and technology in the final years of the Manchu rule. The Boxers invade Beijing, killing 230 foreigners and Chinese Christians. The rebellion is suppressed by a multinational coalition of 20,000 troops, with China being forced to pay large war reparations, contributing to growing nationalist resentment against the Qing dynasty.
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