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CONSTANCE PENSTONE (also known as CONSTANCE ROTH)
Born 1864 in Chesterfield, England
(Deceased 1928, died in Glencairn, Near Cape Town )
 

Studied

Derbyshire School of Art.

Summary Biography

Lived for some years in Australia and the USA; reputed to have designed stained-glass windows for Tiffany's, NY; 1896: she came to SA; was married to the cartoonist, Charles Penstone, who established the periodical 'The Owl'; worked as cartoonist to 'The Owl' and the 'Cape Times' under the pseudonym 'Scalpel'.
1902: founder-member of SASA; Council-member 1902-13; very active in Cape Town art-circles; exhibited watercolours and works in gesso; after death of Charles Penstone she married George Crosland Robinson; thereafter she was frequently referred to as Penstone-Robinson. 1917: included in Roworth's essay on 'SA Landscape Painting' in Studio publication 'Art of the British Empire Overseas' - her name erroneously printed as 'E' Penstone-Robinson: ("…has long been one of our leading watercolourists") She and Crosland Robinson had a small cottage in Fish Hoek and a studio in St George's Street, Cape Town; she worked mainly at the cottage; many paintings of peninsular farms and buildings.

Exhibitions

1902: First SASA Exhibition, Cape Town, et seq; one-man exhibitions in Cape Town.
1910-1919: Showed regularly in Jhb.
1924: SA Art, Empire Exhibition, Wembly.
1957: 'Founders of Painting at the Cape since 1857', SA National Gallery, Cape Town.

Public Collections

SA National Gallery, Cape Town
Albany Museum, Grahamstown
Africana Museum, Johannesburg

Constance Penstone was one of the small coterie of 'doers' who organized art-activities in Cape Town during the earliest years of the century. She was professionally employed as a cartoonist, painting watercolours for her own satisfaction.

Between 1900 and 1910 she was referred to regularly in the Cape press for her energetic movement in art-circles and for exhibitions of her work. Her water-colours were criticized for their 'prettiness', but her works in gesso, (few of which still exist), were commended: "Mrs Penstone probably stands alone in SA, in a matter of successful results, and almost alone as a worker in that method" - 'Cape Argus' 14 November 1904. (Other artists who exhibited work in the gesso medium included Denis Santry and Pickford Marriot of PE).

Later in her career Constance Penstone gave up cartooning and concentrated on watercolour. Cape Farmyard is fairly typical of her subject matter and style. The original bears out another early press comment - "she is an optimist in colour". While not artistically inventive, her visual accounts were competent and pleasant; her descriptive inclinations led her to record many scenes of the Cape environment, particularly the coastline. In 1905 she showed a series of paintings of buildings in Simonstown at Darter's Gallery, Cape Town. Such works gain added interest today as Africana.

(Late in 1982, when this edition of Art & Artists was already at final proof stage, the author was approached by an Australian art historian seeking information on a certain Constance ROTH, who was believed to have worked in SA after leaving Australia in the 1890s. The researcher, Margaret Maynard, had established that the Afric Museum, Johannesburg, possessed lithographs by Constance Roth, but the museum was unable to provide any data about the artist herself.

Aware that the SA artist, Constance PENSTONE, was at least twice married, and armed with the above facts about her life, the author hazarded the proposition that the Australian artist may perhaps have changed her surname …And, suddenly, two independent research exercises fitted together, to identify the mysterious local Constance Roth and to present a more complete biographical profile of Constance Penstone:

The artist, born Jones in 1864 (SA records cite 1865), was married to Felix Roth in 1884 and divorced from him in 1887. She lived in Sydney, Australia from the mid-1880s until c1892. During that time, she was known to move in the circle of leading Sydney artists. Although not represented in Australian museums, she acquired some reputation as an illustrator. When she departed from Australia, the country was going through a period of economic depression. Little is yet known about her temporary residence in the United States.)

Reference: Esmé Berman, Art and Artists of South Africa, An Illustrated biographical dictionary and historical survey of painters, sculptors and graphic artists since 1875; 1983 (260:261)



CONSTANCE PENSTONE
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Artist: CONSTANCE PENSTONE
Title: Grapes
Size: 40 x 60 cm
Media: Watercolour
Price on request, framed
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