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North Devon in 100 Objects: 65. Clara Peters’ Watercolours

A watercolour painting of two hypericum flowers.

Shortly before her death in 1939 Clara Elizabeth Peters presented her extensive collection of watercolour paintings of local plants and flowers to the North Devon Athenaeum.

Clara, known as Chrissie, was born in London in 1865, the daughter of a piano maker.  Her mother died when she was a child, and by the age of 26 she was living on her own means.  Ten years later she was a dressmaker, so it was probably with some relief that she later found not only employment, but also a beautiful home in which to spend the rest of her life. She spent the last 28 years of her life as a paid companion to the unmarried Rosalie Chichester at Arlington Court.

An accomplished painter and pianist, Chrissie was also a practical person who took over much of the day-to-day running of the estate. Later, the two women were to go on voyages all over the world, but during the First World War their adventures were confined to the Arlington estate, and the lanes and byways around it.

It was during this time that Chrissie produced these paintings of wildflowers which are as much a botanical collection as works of art. Her delicate depictions include foxgloves, bluebells and wild hyacinths alongside field poppies and scarlet pimpernel.  Simple and elegant, yet perfectly uniform, the paintings contain nothing other than the neatly labelled specimens – their slender stems and gently folding leaves casting slight shadows.

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