Friday 11 January 2013

Dear Little Kate

I couldn't move on from "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose" without mentioning dear little Kate Millet.

Kate Millet by
Sir Laurence Alma Tadema 
Kate was the original model for the painting. She was five years old and the only child available when JSS began the work in a frenzy of creativity in 1885. Some have suggested, due to her tender years, she was unable to pose for the length of time required. I doubt it. The whole point of the painting was the desire of  JSS to capture the contrast of twighlight and lantern light. He worked no more than twenty minutes on the painting each day and sometimes as little as two minutes. Kate was living in a colony for American artists in the village of Broadway in the English Cotswolds. Henry James said of it "There is portraiture in the air..... Everything is a subject or effect...." I think little Miss Kate would have had a very good idea of what was expected.

Never the less along came Polly and Dolly Barnard

Polly Barnard by JSS

At 7 and 11 yrs of age they took instruction well and had the features JSS had imagined for the work. In addition the work had always been of two children. Poor Kate had her feelings well and truly hurt.

The story is excellently told in the fictionalised account by the award winning writer Hugh Brewster in his book "Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose; the Story of A Painting"  Although a work of fiction it is based on letters and memoirs of Kate and others at the colony.

It is recommended as an introduction to art appreciation for children aged 9-12 yrs but I think it is also the story of a garden. 


  1. It sounds like a wonderful read. I'm not sure I could sit long enough to have my portrait painted. I'm a bit wiggly. :o)

  2. I love the follow up info for such a special painting.

    1. I couldn't leave out Kate after reading her story.

  3. Susan -
    You are all loaded in for my Grow Your Blog party. Looking forward to your special post. In reference to your question about time changes -- I have left the door open for those who wish to publish their post the night of the 18th -- that way you will be ready on time. I hope you make lots of new friends!