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Joyce Bidder 

(Wimbledon, London 1906-1999)


Still life of a Chinese doll and tea bowl


pencil and watercolour on paper, heightened with gouache

signed lower right 'J.BIDDER.1931'

23 x 16 cm. 

in a period frame


Provenance

Given to Cyril & Billie Watford, thence by descent.


Bidder’s sculptural interest in form and placement is apparent, whether through the cleverly-wrought reflections and play of light on a silver salver and ceramic beads, the juxtaposition of perfectly formed eggs with a crumpled paper bag, the rendering of fine Chinese porcelain, or a life-like Chinese doll carefully placed by a delicate tea bowl. According to pencil inscriptions on the reverse, these elegantly worked gouaches were painted as competition. Marked 'to return to the artist', she must have been pleased enough with the paintings to wish for them back, and indeed Joyce kept them till the end of her life when she gave them along with a number of her ceramic pieces to her close friends, the Watfords.


Joyce Bidder was primarily a sculptor, with a strong, linear style informed by a kind of classical modernism we associate today with municipal frescoes and sculptures of the era, (think of Eric Gill & the BBC building). Yet her work had a feminine delicacy unique to itself, an irony not lost today if we look at Joyce's modest legacy as a female sculptor in a decidedly masculine world, relegated to her own bubble in Wimbledon, where she worked out of a purpose-built studio, shared with her life-long love, companion and fellow artist, Daisy Borne (1906-1998). It was an unassuming, wisteria-covered space with large double-height doors to facilitate the logistics of monumental sculptures, incongruously situated on a quiet, suburban street of Edwardian houses. Originally built for Charles Doman, an architectural sculptor (known for the decorative facade of Liberty's), it was acquired by Joyce and Daisy, perhaps with grand ambitions, but which slowly ebbed away as they eked out a quiet life together, ultimately making art for their own pleasure in Virginia Woolf's proverbial "room of one's own".


Although Joyce exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy from 1931 to 1957, she retreated from that spotlight. She was a Fellow of the Royal Society for British Sculptors, but found her comfort zone as a member of the Society of Women Artists, where she showed over sixty works between 1933 and 1971, as well as at the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculptors and Engravers - amassing a large collection of contemporary miniatures along the way. And so, it was not until 1987 that Joyce and Daisy would have their own dedicated exhibition, at The Fine Art Society on Bond Street, as organised by Peyton Skipwith, who had become interested in their work whilst preparing another exhibition, 'Sculpture in Britain Between the Wars', in 1986. Joyce Bidder's work is rarely on the open market, and her paintings are especially rare. This small group of still life paintings from 1931, when she was only twenty-five years old, (two years before she met Daisy, and fresh out of Wimbledon School of Art), offers a unique snapshot of her early promise. 

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