Private: 1 Doris Brabham Hatt, 1890 to 1969, Modern Artist

Doris Hatt was an artist of considerable talent and originality who lived in Clevedon, Somerset, England.  She has been almost forgotten by the art world because her Communism caused her to reject the talents of agents to sell her pictures until nearly the end of her life.  Her Communism also put many of her customers under unendurable pressure from the security services. Homophobia may also have had an effect on her sales.  These and other factors are presented in this site.  Left is a photograph of Doris Hatt taken prior to the first World War: Right is a photograph taken in the 1930s.

Doris Hatt created outdoor and interior works in pencil, ink, water colour, and oils and printing.  Her work ranged from realism to semi-abstract, but she shied away from extreme abstraction.  She discovered her love for art in Kassel, Germany in 1906 where she was studying music at finishing school. Her style was varied, frequently hovering between indoor still-life and exterior work.  She produced hundreds of pictures of seaside fishing villages in Britain and in the Europe.  She produced city-scapes of London, Paris, Vienna, and nearer home of Bristol, Bath and her home town Clevedon and her partner’s hometown Watchet.  She depicted  farm-scapes.  She created portraits.  The people in her pictures are immediately recognisable.  Over time she developed motifs which were made stronger yet more simplified.  The composition of her pictures was overt, even to the point of reintroducing grid lines into her finished work.  Every picture is like a master class in picture making.

Doris Hatt taught children to draw when she joined her mother in Clevedon, and ran adult evening classes into the 1960s.    Her talks were about the problems artists face when planning to paint a picture.  She talked about modern artists, particularly Picasso.  Those of us lucky enough to have a Hatt hanging in their homes see their environment anew.  Look!  There is a Hatt tree, pigeon, a person in pain, or angry or relaxing on the Italian Rivera, or on the Costa Brava, or in a Parisian cafe.  She worked obsessively from 9 to 5 each day, and produced thousands of pictures, most of which are lost and waiting to be rediscovered.

On the left is a small water-colour and pencil study of Lyme Regis, Devon at night in 1936, and below an oil painting of Highdale Farm 1953 Clevedon, Somerset.

Why has this account of Doris Hatt has been written.

 I have written this account of my memories of Doris Hatt because I made a promise to her lifelong partner Margery Mack Smith in 1975. The promise came about in the following way. A message was received by my mother, Gwen Webb, saying that Margery had been taken ill and was in Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton, Somerset UK. Margery was anxious to see my mother. I drove my mother from Clevedon, North Somerset, UK to Taunton to see her. Margery was propped up in her hospital bed, paralysed by a stroke, unable to speak. Her eyes did not rest on my worried mother for long. They rested on me.

She was weeping. She was in great distress. I realised that I had to question her to discover what was troubling her. This lasted for a considerable time. It was much interrupted by nurses who urged me and my mother to allow Margery to rest, but these suggestions were met with such obvious fury by Margery, and, were it possible, such increased crying and attempts to vocalise that we were allowed to stay, indeed even sometime beyond the fairly restricted visiting hours advised at the time.

What did Margery want? It transpired the she did not want her friend Doris to be forgotten. She did not want Doris’s remaining pictures or sketchbooks to be lost, forgotten or destroyed. She wished that her lifelong friend should be remembered. She wished that we should make Doris’s work known to as many people as possible. Only when she was certain that she had conveyed her wishes to us, and that we promised to fulfill them did she rest. Then her eyes smiled out of her crumpled face. She died that night. That is why I have had to write this account.

I need to discover as much about Doris Hatt as I can to share.  Please tell me about any memories you have about her and about any pictures you have.

And the others

DorisHattetal.com  will also shine a spot light on other artists who lived in and around Clevedon, Somerset, England, show casing sculpture, pottery, furniture and other related or interesting works.

Sir Edmund Harry Elton, later assisted by William Fishley Holland,  produced Elton Ware pottery at Clevedon Court.  Sir Edmund’s grandchildren Sir Arthur Elton and his brother Ralph supported Doris Hatt, opening some of her exhibitions and buying her work.  The furniture maker John Chappel was also a contemporary of Doris Hatt.  These others will also be studied on this website.

Doris Hatt’s and Margery Mack Smith’s Legacies

In her will Margery Mack Smith left many of Doris Hatt’s remaining artefacts to the safe keeping of my mother. She, in her turn, left them to me. They consisted some of oil paintings and two wooden chests containing many items including sketchbooks, press cuttings and lecture notes. There were a large number of postcards of paintings by old and modern masters collected from visits to many European galleries or sent her by friends.  Some had been labelled with numbers or letters for use in Doris’s night school talks. Others had pinholes in them where they had been mounted for study.

Doris Hatt’s sister-in-law Ella Hatt, wife of her late brother Dick Hatt, had destroyed the bulk of her correspondence and of Doris Hatt’s personal possessions in a huge bonfire immediately after Doris Hatt had died in 1969. Doris Hatt and Margery Mack Smith were due to move within days from Littlemead Clevedon Somerset to a house in Watchet that Margery Mack Smith had inherited a couple of decades earlier from her sister. I wonder whether my two chests escaped the bonfire because they had already been taken to Watchet?

Doris Hatt’s much loved nephew Robin Hatt, son of her brother Dick and Ella, was invited by both Margery and subsequently by my mother to have any or all of Doris’s artifacts, but he refused them.  When we retrieved the bequest everything left to my mother had been meticulously labelled to my mother in what appeared to be Doris’s hand, not Margery’s. It was quite evident that both Doris Hatt and Margery Mack Smith had been thinking about the fate of Doris Hatt’s artifacts for a long while before Hatt’s death in 1969. No small wonder then that my mother was summoned to Taunton when Margery was taken seriously ill. Margery could not contemplate another horrific bonfire.

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