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Katharine Jowett


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Katharine Jowett was an English artist best known for her luminous color block prints of Chinese landscapes around the Peking/Beijing area. Katharine was born in Devon around 1890 into a religious family. She was the daughter of Reverend Timothy Wheatley, minister at the Mint Methodist Church in Exeter. Originally from the North of England, Reverend Wheatley had married into a Devon family, the Pearses, who were early followers of John Wesley. In her early twenties, Katharine followed a Methodist missionary, with whom she was in love, to China, but found on arrival in Peking that she did not want to marry him after all. Instead, she married Hardy Jowett, a prominent member of the British community in Peking, by whom she had two sons. The Jowett family may have known Bertha Lum, who lived in China around the same time.

Jowett is thought to have produced around 20 different prints, only some of which were in numbered editions. Her pictures, particularly her prints, were very popular in China in the twenties and thirties and not just with the Western community. Even Chairman Mao had a set of her prints in his study. Two of Jowett's linoleum cuts were used to illustrate cultural essays that appeared in "The Christian Science Monitor" in 1934-35.

Jowett's husband died in 1936 and she was interned by the Japanese during World War II. She met a German baron in the prisoner-of-war camp, to whom she became very attached, but whom she never married. After the war, Jowett returned to England and lived mainly in Okehampton where her younger son practiced medicine. She continued to paint, but her later paintings, although charming, lack the vitality and interest of her Chinese pictures. She died twenty years after her return and is buried in the Pearse family graveyard in Sticklepath, just outside Okehampton. Katharine Jowett's block prints of China continue to be sought after by modern collectors, depicting as they do a vanished world, largely destroyed in the upheavals of the mid-twentieth century.

This biographical information was thoughtfully provided by surviving members of Katharine Jowett's family. Copyright © Hanga Gallery. All rights reserved.

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