Rowley Gallery: An Early 20thC Pen & Ink Sketch of Two Seated Girls


Origin: English
Period: Early Twentieth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1900-40
The Frame:
Height: 11.25 inches
Width: 13.75 inches
Depth: 1 inch
The Sketch: 6.75 x 9.25 inches

Signed in pencil lower left Jobtz? and with traces of label verso, this charming pen and ink work sits elegantly in a Rowley Gallery Frame with paper label.

The two semi-nude seated girls are loosely, but expertly depicted washing their hair transforming this rather mundane everyday task into a entirely more sexual and sensitive composition. The large area of vacant space around the figures only adds to their gravitas.

Condition is fair to good, part of the original Rowley frame had deteriorated and thus the outer frame is contemporary but the rest of the frame remains. There is some foxing to the artwork, which was deemed too sensitive to remove without compromising the pictures integrity.

Mr and Mrs Albert James Rowley, focusing on picture framing, mounting, restoration, carving and gilding, founded the Rowley Gallery in 1898. By the 1920s they were active from their premises at 140-2 Church Street, Kensington and the business moved to their workshop premises at 86 & 87 Campden Street after it was hit by a bomb in 1940 (helping to date this picture) and from that time concentrated mainly on picture framing.  A J Rowley died in 1944 and the business continued under the directorship of Laurence Rowley. We believe this picture was created a short time before the premises moved to Campden Street, purely because of the style, patination and foxing to the work.

The gallery specialised in decorative schemes to include distinctive designs for inlaid pictures and mirrors, screens and furniture. Celebrated artists such as Sir Frank Brangwyn, William Chase, Robert Anning Bell, W J Palmer Jones, Henry Butler, and Horace Mann Livens were amongst those supplying designs, which were executed by Rowley and his team of highly skilled craftsmen.

Although we cannot find any information on the artist, (primarily because the signature proves hard to read), interest in the Rowley Gallery is always growing with pieces being exhibited at the V&A, Brighton Museum and the William Morris Gallery. This work, whilst remaining somewhat incognito and mysterious, has an effortless mystique pointing to an artist of high esteem.