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John & Katharine Maltwood Collection

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John & Katharine

Post-War Works - Part 1: War and Travel

M964.1.357, The Mills of God, by Katharine Maltwood, 1919.
The Mills of God
by Katharine Maltwood, 1919

The outbreak of the First World War lead to an interruption in Katharine Maltwood's artistic activities. Close by the Maltwoods' home in Tadworth, Surrey, a training camp was established for British Public School boys. Hearing the camp had no medical facilities, the artist organized and ran a hospital in two army huts sanctioned by the War Office as a private enterprise.

Like many of her contemporaries Katharine Maltwood was appalled by the tragedy, sacrifice and disillusionment of the war years. Her reaction can be seen in a symbolic bronze, The Mills of God, which was first exhibited in 1919 at the Ridley Art Club, in the Grafton Galleries. It met with considerable praise and prompted The Observer art critic to write: "The writhing, but rhythmically linked, mass of agonized humanity, inexorably crushed between two solid stone wheels, is like a Michelangelo 'Last Judgment' compressed into a few figures - it would lend itself to treatment on a larger scale, and it might even serve as a War Memorial."

Chilton Priory, Somerset, England
Chilton Priory, Somerset, England

As the War drew to a close the Maltwoods decided to escape from the vicinity of London by moving to Somerset. Anticipating John Maltwood's retirement they purchased Chilton Priory, a large house and estate near the village of Chilton Polden, which remained their home for nearly twenty years. In the pursuit of her artistic career, however, Katharine Maltwood preferred the atmosphere of London's West End and decided to rent a studio at East Heath Road, a picturesque corner of Kensington. It was here she executed her post war pieces and lodged while returning to take further courses in Fine Art under Frederick Brown at the Slade School of Art from 1918-19.

In these years the Maltwoods also began to travel more extensively, being particularly fascinated by the art and culture of ancient civilizations. They were drawn to the aura of the East, journeying to India in 1917 and to Japan three years later, where they visited many of the great Buddhist monuments and shrines. Like many of her artistic predecessors Katharine Maltwood was captivated by the ancient art and history of Egypt. She travelled up the Nile Valley in 1919 with a party of friends and a press clipping shows her perched on the knees of a statue of Rameses II at Luxor Temple "drawing a relief portrait of King Tutankhamen on the wall opposite."

Travel photo of Katharine Maltwood at Luxor.
Travel photo of Katharine Maltwood at Luxor
Travel trunk with Luxor souvenir sticker.

On John Maltwood's retirement from business in 1921 the couple made a leisurely trip around the world. Their sojourns took them through Europe to Italy and Greece from where they sailed for Egypt and North Africa. They then toured Palestine and crossed Arabia to India and Ceylon. From Malaysia they cruised the Indonesian Islands seeking out Bali, Sumatra and Java and then progressed north to China, Korea and Japan. On their return through North America they spent a few weeks at the Empress Hotel in Victoria where they called on several old friends who had settled in British Columbia. In 1923 a press clipping from July reports that Katharine Maltwood had recently returned from Tunisia. The last few weeks of 1923 and first two months of 1924 were spent in Luxor, Egypt where the recently discovered tomb of Tutankamen in the Valley of the Kings had brought thousands of tourists, celebrities and press reporters all eager to catch a glimpse of the magnificent treasures.

In 1927 and 28 the Maltwoods made another expedition to India touring from Delhi south through central India to Kandy, Ceylon. In the 1930's they returned to the Far East visiting several countries including Vietnam. It was during these years of protracted travel that the couple purchased many of the objets d'art now in the Maltwood Collection. In addition Katharine Maltwood became increasingly absorbed in the study of ancient mythology, religion and Eastern philosophy, particularly Buddhism. These interests were not unusual among the exclusive circle of friends and acquaintances in which the Maltwoods moved, not only in England but around the world.



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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