Mary Elizabeth Butler Biography

Mary Elizabeth Butler




Mary Elizabeth Butler was born in Chichester, England, in 1845. She seems to have studied art at the Slade School in London where her drawings were alleged to be "greatly admired by Mr. Ruskin," who taught there. She traveled extensively and somewhere along the way she studied and learned the techniques of color woodcut from Frank Morley Fletcher or one of his students. She exhibited in England between 1867 and 1912, including at the Royal Academy (R.A.), The Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI), The Fine Art Society (FAS) and Walker's Gallery, London.

By 1910 Butler, who signed many of her works "M.E. Butler," was living in Pietermaritburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Her studio, where she taught art, was located at 200 Longmarket Street. It was noted the she "provided tuition" for schools and students, before they had access to government provided art programs. Students travelled, using scotch carts, from "as far afield as Hilton" (about 9 miles away) to attend her classes.

Butler specialized in watercolors and "woodcuts with body-colour" of indigenous flowers such as flame-lilies, Kaffir-Booms, etc. She also exhibited at the Dudley Gallery in London and her works can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Her work was included in an exhibition "British Water Colours in the Victoria and Albert Museum," London, 1980, p.48.

Mary Elizabeth Butler, described by town historian J. Verbeek as "an impoverished gentle woman" died in Pietermaritburg, South Africa in 1937.

Information gathered from "Art and Archtecture in Natal 1910 - 1940," Melanie Hillebrand, 1986, doctorate thesis (part II), University of KwaZulu-Natal (link here)