Obituary: Isobel Morton-Sale

Isobel Laurie Lucas, illustrator, born London 15 May 1904, married 1924 John Morton-Sale (died 1990; one daughter), died Moretonhampstead Devon 25 November 1992.

ISOBEL MORTON-SALE was an artist and illustrator of singular delicacy. She was co-founder with her husband, John, of the Parnassus Gallery, well-known in their time for outstanding reproductions of great and lesser-known works of art.

She was born Isobel Lucas, into a Chelsea family which moved in literary and artistic circles where the Rossettis and their friends were still remembered. Isobel recalled meeting the writer Theodore Watts-Dunton in her uncle's house and, at a very early age, having a door politely held open for her by Algernon Swinburne.

She wrote that when she was seven 'the family moved to Kew, where this loveliest of gardens became a place of enchantment through the whole of my childhood'. Her love of drawing was already apparent and she confessed that all through her schooldays she 'scribbled drawings on books when I should have been doing other things'.

She went to the Central School of Art, where she studied with AS Hartrick, Spencer Pryce (for lithography) and Noel Rook. There she met John Morton-Sale, whom she married in 1924. They were perfectly suited, above all in creative feeling. Each was an inspiration to the other, although their work was quite distinct (they always had separate studios). Their mutuality of interest in other works of art later made it possible for them to publish their favourites with a committed concern for perfection.

Isobel's delicacy of style and sensitivity to colour was matched by an acuteness of observation which she transmitted in the fine lines of her own drawing. Early on she had illustrated JM Barrie's Shall We Join the Ladies? and other one-act plays. For the first five years after the birth of her daughter she did few illustrations for publication, but 'devoted all painting time to making studies of her'.

In 1937 the Morton-Sales went permanently to live on the edge of Dartmoor and there Isobel both painted and illustrated busily. Her most characteristic paintings from this period capture the innocent joys of childhood - a little girl listening to the 'Voice of the Seashell', or sitting on a ladder under a fruit-net, or clutching an apple in a fat hand. Her Flower-sellers - three children standing barefoot on a moorland roadside - shows her feeling for composition, line and colour.

In their London years the Morton-Sales enjoyed the world of theatre and the arts in the circle of the Farjeons. Eleanor Farjeon became a dear friend and the three collaborated then and later in five, by now classic, books of children's stories and poetry, including Cherrystones (1942), The Mulberry Bush (1945) and The Starry Floor (1949). Another friend was the novelist Elizabeth Goudge; so delighted was she by some of Isobel's paintings that she wrote stories round them, four of which - Serena the Hen, Maria or the Good Little Girl, Arabella or The Bad Little Girl and The Shufflewing - were published as charming children's booklets by the Parnassus Gallery in 1964.

In over 20 years devoted to publishing (the Morton-Sales retired from the Parnassus Gallery in 1977), Isobel had an unerring sense of what was appropriate for reproduction in a small format, though both she and John used their creative talents in the choice of subjects and settings. Isobel made a particular contribution in writing interesting and vivid texts about the works. The Parnassus Gallery brought out many beautiful works - paintings, enamels and stained glass from the Victoria and Albert Museum; early works from the National Gallery including Simon Marmion, Memling and Botticelli; Avercamp and others from the Royal Collection and hidden masterpieces from private houses in Britain, and churches in Tuscany, an area which became familiar after the Morton-Sales' daughter went to live there.

Isobel continued to draw and paint; her work was exhibited from 1979 to 1983 at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and a retrospective exhibition of paintings by both John and Isobel was held at the Maas Gallery, in London, in 1984.

Isobel Morton-Sale was small, elegant and gentle, with a delicate fairness; she had about her an aura of dignity and strength. Of women of her time she admired greatly the quiet art of Gwen John and Winifred Nicholson. Her distaste for anything false, degrading or subversive left her free to pursue her work with an innocent delight, and in her paintings a sense of enchantment pervades the realism of the captured moment.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?