Beatrice Hewitt is best known as a painter of sensitive miniature portraits. However, her early watercolours of flowers and the present impressive figure study in oil demonstrate that she was an artist of range as well as skill. Beatrice Hewitt was born in Hanwell, Middlesex, and baptised on 18 September 1859 as the fifth of seven children of the medical doctor, Joseph Hewitt, and his wife, Charlotte (née Waterhouse). When Joseph Hewitt died six years later, in Eton, his addresses were given as 7 Southwick Place, Hyde Park Square, London, and Heath Lodge, Iver, Buckinghamshire.
Almost nothing is known of the childhood of Beatrice Hewitt; however, by the time of the taking of the 1871 census, she and her six siblings were living with their widowed mother and a maternal aunt, Eliza Waterhouse, ‘on interest of money &c’ at Chestham (now Chestham Park), a large Regency house to the north of Henfield, Sussex, which they possibly rented.
By 1878, Beatrice Hewitt and her family had returned to London, and were living at 18 Delamere Crescent (now part of the Warwick Estate), in Paddington, which her mother 116 kept as a boarding house. On the census taken at Delamere Crescent three years later, in 1881, Beatrice and an elder sister, Florence, are each identified as being ‘artist pr [painter]’. While nothing is known of the artistic training of either woman before this date, Florence is singled out for praise two years later; an article in the Bazaar Exchange and Mart for 7 December 1883 states that ‘The work of Miss Florence Hewitt as a flower painter has already been for several years before the public, and her designs upon calendars, letter wallets and Christmas cards, are universally admired’.
It seems that Beatrice Hewitt also first came to public notice as a flower painter, two studies of roses being exhibited at the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1884. Her address at the time was ‘St Aubyns, Kew Gardens’, which proved to be ‘a superior educational home’ of which she was Principal, and possibly founder, ‘where a limited number of pupils are received, and for whom a thorough and finished education is provided’.
She was assisted in this by both her mother and ‘resident Foreign Governesses and visiting Professors’ (F S D de Carteret Bisson, Our Schools and Colleges, London: Simpkin, Marshall, 1884, page 554). However, there is no evidence that this finishing school flourished for more than a year and, by the end of the 1880s, Beatrice Hewitt was focussing on her artistic career.
Between 1888 and 1895, Beatrice Hewitt is known to have lived in the Balham area of South London, and initially at 70 Cheriton Square, ‘Upper Tooting’. While there, she exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time, showing An Academy Model in 1888. The title, ‘An Academy Model’, suggests that she was undergoing a course of study at this point, but there is no evidence for this.
By 1890, Beatrice Hewitt had moved, with her mother, to 7 Ryde Vale Road, which was closer to Tooting Common. In that year, she exhibited at the Royal Academy for a second time with two portrait miniatures, and these established her artistic identity. Similar works were shown each year at the RA until 1893, and then again in the years 1895, 1901 and 1902. Most of her sitters came from the upper middle classes, though, by the turn of the century, she was also being patronised by members of the aristocracy, namely the Duchess of Newcastle (1901) and Mary, Countess of Mar and Kellie (1902).
In 1893, Beatrice Hewitt moved a few streets away to Linkfield House, 30 Fontenoy Road, which was the home of the architect, Edwin J Munt and his family. In 1895, her exhibits at the RA were singled out in the magazine, The Athenaeum, as demonstrating the beauty of the contemporary miniature. Apart from her work as miniaturist, she contributed ‘A Study in Colour’, for use as a frontispiece, to The Pall Mall Magazine, in 1894.
By 1898, Beatrice Hewitt had begun a new phase of her life when she moved north of the River Thames to live at one of the three artists’ studios at 12a Edith Terrace, Chelsea. She then studied at the Slade School of Art, and at the end of her first year of was awarded a prize of £3 for Fine Art Anatomy, a course that was taught by Professor G D Thane.
By 1901, Beatrice Hewitt had moved to 4 Addison Studios, Blythe Road, West Kensington, with her younger sister, Constance. She remained there until at least 1904, the year in which Constance died, in Hailsham, Sussex, at the age of 39. It is likely that, on becoming ill, Constance had joined her mother, aunt and sisters, Margaret and Florence, who together had taken Oldbury Farm, Hooe, which is five miles east of Hailsham, and which Margaret ran as a dairy farm.
In turn, Beatrice Hewitt also became ill, and her burgeoning artistic career was cut short. She joined her family at Oldbury Farm, dying there on 30 August 1908, aged 49.