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John & Katharine Maltwood Collection

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John & Katharine

Biography of Katharine Maltwood

A poet and philosopher in sculpture and a prophet in antiquarian research were the roles Katharine Emma Maltwood adopted in her career as an artist, collector and scholar. Born on April 17, 1878, she was brought up in her parents' large Italianate home, "Higham Lodge", in Woodford Green, London, England. Her father, George S. Sapsworth, was a wealthy leather merchant and sometime local mayor who ran a strict Victorian household. She was one of four children, having two older sisters and a brother, all of whom acquired some interest in the arts.

In the early 1890's Katharine Sapsworth was sent to school at Moira House, a recently established, private school for girls in Eastbourne, Sussex. Little is known of her early youth except that she acquired a great interest in poetry and the graphic arts. Later, she turned to sculpture and attended the Slade School of Art, University College, London from 1896-97, where she studied formally under Sir George Frampton, R.A. Her training continued with studies in Italy and Paris in the late 1890's.

Katharine Maltwood at work on Magna Mater (M964.1.365), c.1910.
Katharine Maltwood at work on Magna Mater (M964.1.365), c.1910

On April 2, 1901 she married John Maltwood, an advertising manager, whose considerable fortune enabled her to devote her entire life to travel, collecting, sculpture and writing. From 1911 to 1930 her sculptural works were exhibited regularly at the London Salon, the Royal Academy and various other London galleries where they met with some success. After John Maltwood's retirement from business in 1921, she and her husband made extensive tours of the Middle East, India, China, Korea, Japan and both North and South America. As a result, the diverse range of the Maltwood Collection began to develop. John Maltwood shared his wife's love of art and, as well as being a devout admirer of the latter's work, he was particularly interested in Persian rugs, antique furniture and Oriental art.

The last thirty years of Katharine Maltwood's life were almost totally occupied with her antiquarian interests. These involved archaeological and literary research concerning the Glastonbury Zodiac which she claimed to have discovered while living in Somerset in 1925. Following extensive research into the sources of Arthurian legends she became convinced that the "Kingdom of Logres" was actually Somerset and the adventures of the knights are recorded in the form of a huge system of earthworks spread out some ten miles in diameter in the neighbourhood of Glastonbury Tor. This "Zodiac", she claimed, formed part of a ritual complex, one of many similar monuments found the world over, which witnessed the existence of a universal mystery cult in the third and second millenniums before Christ. She published several books explaining her theories and continually sought to win support for her ideas. Research on the Glastonbury Zodiac has been continued by others in recent years.

In 1938 the Maltwoods decided to leave England and settle in Victoria, British Columbia. They purchased a house at Royal Oak, formerly a restaurant, which they named "The Thatch" and transformed it into a combination studio and country home. Here the couple arranged their sizable collection, including Katharine Maltwood's own sculpture, and many items associated with her antiquarian interests.

During their last twenty years in Victoria the Maltwoods continued to add to their collection. They patronized local artists such as Emily Carr, W. P. Weston, C.J. Collings, Ina D.D. Uhthoff and Stella Langdale. Katharine Maltwood commissioned a series of botanical paintings recording local flora and fauna through the seasons. These were executed by Elizabeth Duer, her artist-cousin, trained in Japan. The English sculptress never gave up her own artistic pursuits and produced several small sculptural pieces. In addition she noted her impressions of the local scenery in a pastel-sketch series she called "Tree-tops".

In recognition of her work both as a sculptress and antiquarian, Katharine Maltwood was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1940. She died in 1961, bequeathing "The Thatch", her collection and an endowment to the University of Victoria. John Maltwood died in 1967.


All content on this page is copyright © 30 January, 2006
Rosemary Brown, the Maltwood Art Museum and Gallery, and the University of Victoria

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