Obituary: Jean Schofield

JEAN SCHOFIELD was a passionate advocate of education for all and a popular lecturer at the Victoria and Albert Museum for over 20 years.

Her love of art was rooted in her lifelong experience of Italy. Born Jean Thornett Smith in Turin in 1922, until she was eight she effectively grew up with the Agnelli children to whom her aunt was governess. This early exposure to Italian life was a rich source for her later career and her children vividly recall eating risotto in the early 1950s, long before it became familiar in England.

She was recruited in 1942 to the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House to read the Italian newspapers and then joined the Wrens, serving on Southampton Water. Characteristic was her joyous but unofficial visit to London to celebrate VE Day with Patrick Schofield whom she had married in 1944. This enterprise attracted six weeks' confinement to barracks, cheerfully endured.

Her organisational skills were tested as a young mother in the late 1940s and early 1950s when Patrick's medical training was interrupted by tuberculosis. As the wife of a busy general practitioner in Weybridge and mother of five children, she managed to carve out a role through the Wives Fellowship and Josephine Butler's Six Point Group.

It was not until the early 1970s that she was free to pursue her longstanding interest in art history, attending the Study Centre in London, which offered the first postgraduate diploma in decorative arts. A key moment for her association with the V&A was when in 1974 she was invited to help the Metalwork Department sort its archives, photographs and slides.

For 23 years she worked at the V&A giving lectures and attending on a weekly basis to sort, label, classify and mount slides and to dispense wisdom to calm the small dramas of a lively curatorial group. Jean Schofield built up for the Metalwork Department a collection of more than 20,000 slides, many from her own camera and at her own expense. Her consistent and unselfish labour remains the foundation of all the many lectures given by the Silver, Jewellery and Metalwork staff. Without her work, typical of the uncelebrated but essential effort given by almost 400 dedicated individuals, many of the curatorial activities and outreach programmes enjoyed by V&A visitors would be impossible.

Although she always regretted her lack of formal academic qualification, this was irrelevant to those who respected her wide reading and her clarity and vividness of expression, based on a profound knowledge of period sources such as diaries, memoirs and novels. She had the capacity to weave a web of meaning to explain the Baroque, 18th-century garden design, or the manufacture of Sheffield plate simply, accurately and memorably.

A longstanding ambition was to write the history of Hancock's, the London goldsmiths and jewellers founded in 1849. This invitation to her arose from a commission for jewellery, triggering her passionate interest in their 19th- century journals, photographs and workbooks. Sadly ill-health denied us the fruit of her knowledge of the l9th- century trade.

Schofield filled the V&A Lecture Theatre whenever she spoke, whether to A level English students about music and art in Shakespeare's England, or the Russian context for Carl Faberge's fantasies, the outstanding talk in a day's programme full of international scholars. She had no time for the meretricious or the merely fashionable and little interest in unkind gossip, but a constant ready ear for people in need. Her swansong at the V&A, a Late View lecture on mosaics in the autumn of 1996, enthralled an audience of 300.

Uncertain health in the 1980s was no barrier to a full programme of devising courses and lecturing not only for the V&A but also for the National Trust, Missenden Abbey and the Inchbald School of Design. Well before the recent wave of fashion, she had developed a series of lectures on the history of dining, given initially at Goldsmiths' Hall. Her high standards in presentation of her material were expressed also in her private life. Not for her was any meal taken merely as a snack and her room at the Star and Garter Home in Richmond, Surrey, where she had become a resident, rapidly acquired a small fridge full of delicacies and rum for naval visitors.

Combining a love of goldsmiths' work and a wish to encourage young makers, she was proud to have spotted the talented silversmith Rod Kelly at his Royal College of Art debut. She commissioned his Hawk bowl as an appropriate gift for her husband, a flying enthusiast, and remained one of his patrons and supporters until her death.

As a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers (1989), she carried her support for contemporary makers into her Service on the Craft Guild Mark Committee, from 1990 to 1996. The company fosters the British furniture industry, encouraging public recognition of excellence by granting Guild Marks to furniture assayed and found worthy by the company juries. She particularly enjoyed visiting workshops and meeting the craftspeople and designers.

Jean Schofield's last years were darkened when her son John, a journalist, was tragically shot dead in Croatia in 1995 when recording for the BBC Radio 4 programme The World Tonight.

Even in her last year, crippled with osteoporosis of the spine, she maintained her research interests, seeking out the original 1920s fittings designed for the Royal Star and Garter Home. The distinctive Arts and Crafts furniture, dispersed about the building and forgotten, and the chapel plate, was reassembled on paper and correctly identified. It would be a fitting tribute to her if these discoveries could be incorporated in any future refurbishment. As Chairman of the Residents' Committee, she operated as a catalyst and as a courteous voice for her colleagues from the Services, exploiting her interior design skills, for example to improve the location of doors and lights for wheelchair users in new lavatories.

Jean Thornett Smith, art historian: born Turin, Italy 18 December 1922; married 1944 Patrick Schofield (one son, three daughters and one son deceased); died Richmond, Surrey 20 August 1998.

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
    The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

    The ZX Spectrum is back

    The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
    Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

    Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

    The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

    If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
    The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

    The quirks of work perks

    From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
    Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

    Is bridge becoming hip?

    The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
    Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

    The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

    Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
    The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

    The rise of Lego Clubs

    How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
    5 best running glasses

    On your marks: 5 best running glasses

    Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
    Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada