PORTRAIT OF ALTHEA MCNISH
SIGNED AND DATED 1969
OIL AND OIL SAND ON BOARD
36 x 24 inches
1975 Inherited by brother Clive, and sisters Olga and Grace
1995 Inherited solely by her two sisters Olga and Grace
1998 Inherited by sister Grace
2005 Inherited by their brother Phillip Atteck
2010 Inherited by his wife Helen Atteck, sister in law of Sybil
2017 To the 101 Art Gallery, Trinidad
Another staggering portrait of a good friend, and fellow artist Althea McNish.
Born in Trinidad, in 1933, Althea was one of the very early (and very young) members of the Trinidad Art Society with Sybil. They worked together tirelessly for the arts in this country, before Althea moved to live in the UK in the early 1950s.
Althea gained some considerable recognition internationally as a designer together with her husband, celebrated designer/architect John Weiss.
All these works may be illustrated in the Exhibition Catalogue, the exhibition planned for later this year as below quote from the Museum:
Her biography reads: “Arthur Stuart Liberty said in later years that he saw Althea’s designs’ exciting colour contrasts for which the British public was then ready. He commissioned many designs from Althea for both fashion and furnishing fabrics, and she also played an important part in the new furnishing trends developed by Hull Traders, Heals, Danasco and WPM.” So influential her work had become, McNish’s design for Ascher was worn by British actress Audrey Hepburn in the 1957 American musical Funny Face. When, in 1966, Queen Elisabeth visited Trinidad, McNish was commissioned to provide designs for her to wear.
This painting is in mixed media – oils and sand, actually oil sand from south Trinidad.
There is a long history of using sand in paintings, to gain texture. In the 1910s Picasso, Braque and Diego Rivera were beginning to experiment with this as a medium (see Rivera’s important work “Still Life with Bottle of Anise” 1914, from the private collection of Picasso).
I suspect that Sybil was amongst the first in Trinidad to experiment with this medium. By the 1960s Carlisle Chang and architect Oswald Glean Chase (see his 1962 work in the Trinidad Hilton) were using this medium, followed by Willi Chen, Nina Squires, and Carlisle Harris etc.
Althea, now 83 years old, is still alive and was in Trinidad a few years ago to host a lecture at the University of Trinidad and Tobago.