Blencowe Families’ Association Newsletter Vol. 23 No. 3 August 2008

Painting by Eleanor Hargrave 1827.

Eleanor Hargrave

As I am 76 years old myself I thought it was my duty to put the record straight as much as I am able and relate what I was told, regarding the above painting.

In 1954 after my marriage, my Aunty Clara, an older sister of my father Stanley Blencowe, gave me the painting to take back home to Sydney with me. At the time I was not very impressed with it.  It was almost impossible to see what the picture subject was due to a thick layer of smoke grime from hanging near an open fireplace for many years.

The painting was by Eleanor Hargrave, my great, great grandmother, and was either a self portrait or a portrait of her mother. I was told that Eleanor was so highly regarded as an artist that she had been commissioned to do a portrait of the Queen of England. That would seem to be Queen Victoria as she commenced her reign in 1837, just ten years from the date of the painting.

Eleanor was a sister to Judge John Fletcher Hargrave whose son Lawrence Hargrave was well known for his contribution to aviation. A plaque and memorial to him situated on the cliffs at Stanwell Tops states that his efforts were recognized worldwide, not only in Australia.

Apparently, many of Eleanor's paintings which came out to Australia were ruined due to the rough seas. The one I have has a mended tear. I don't know if any of the others survived or not.

On arrival home I stowed the painting in the back of a wardrobe (not having any sense of its value). In September 1955 while I was in hospital at Newtown with my first born Janice Eleanor, my husband Keith had the painting cleaned and reframed for a surprise for me. It was just amazing to see revealed this beautiful picture with lovely colouring that had been hidden under all the smoke layers!! However, the back of the canvas had been all sealed over when it was framed hiding the signature and date. That is how the wrong date listed in the Blencowe book came about. From memory I thought it was 1813. Only recently all the backing fell off due to age and the signature and date are on view again, "Eleanor Hargrave 1827". Therefore Eleanor was only 19 years old when this painting was done as she was born 1808. The painting is so beautifully done that several of my grandchildren vow that her eyes just watch them wherever they move to in the room!

So for those who have the Blencowe Families Book, please make a correction to Figure 17.8 Page. 261 "Eleanor Hargrave, who married Benjamin Robert Blencowe, this is either a self portrait or portrait of her mother painted in 1827." My apologies for previously giving the wrong information.

Olive Roach nee Blencowe

updated: 31 October 2008