Naper, Ella (1886-1972)

Ella (1886-1972) Charles (1882-1968) Ella learned handicrafts at the Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts under Frederick Partridge, a disciple of the great arts and crafts practitioner C R Ashbee, and later joined his jewellery workshop at Branscombe in south Devon. There, she developed and refined her feel for Art Nouveau. Ella met and married architect and painter, Charles Naper. They moved to Lamorna in 1912, where Charles built a house, Trewoofe. They soon became part of the Samuel J (Lamorna) Birch circle, making lifelong friendships with, in particular, Laura and Harold Knight and Harold and Gertrude Harvey. The Napers appeared in several notable paintings. Laura Knight’s celebrated Spring shows Ella and Charles setting out for a day’s fishing, and in Self and Nude Ella modelled as the nude. Ella was also one of the three women in Harold Harvey’s painting, The Critics. In the early 1920’s Ella set up the Lamorna Pottery with Kate Westrup, producing mainly commercial ware, but also some beautifully modelled ceramic figures, including ones of herself and Laura Knight. Charles Naper, less gregarious and involved, was an accomplished landscape painter who latterly concentrated on the geometry of cliffs and the patterns and shapes of rock formations. Easily discouraged, though, he rarely exhibited, sold little and in his eccentric last years destroyed a studio full of paintings. But the enduring legacy is Ella’s elegant jewellery, today highly regarded by connoisseurs and collectors, and good enough to be chosen to illustrate the jacket of a definitive book on art nouveau jewellery.

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