Obituary: Sarah Roberts

Sarah Kramer, born Leeds 29 July 1900, married 1922 William Roberts (died 1980; one son), died London 29 November 1992.

SARAH ROBERTS, the widow of the painter William Roberts, was one of the last living links with the 'Vorticists', the rebel art movement led by Wyndham Lewis, with William Roberts as a leading member, that foreshadowed the events of the First World War.

The second of five children - there were also Jacob, Leah, Millie and Isaac - Sarah was the first to be born in England, in Leeds in 1900, the same year her parents had emigrated from Klincy, a small town in the Ukraine. Her family was one of countless thousands who, forced by political and economic pressures, came to England and the US to confer on the cultures of the countries that received them artistic inventiveness and a new vitality.

The world from which Sarah's family came was a Jewish one, rich in those traditions of Jewish culture and Talmudic spirituality that drew as much on its historic past as its Slavonic environment. The Kramer family was typical in this respect. Her father Max had studied under Repin at St Petersburg Fine Art Academy (in Leeds economic circumstances reduced him to a career as a retoucher and hand-colourer of photographs), her uncle, Cion, was also a painter and her mother, Cecilia, was an opera singer and an authority on Russian folk songs. Her older brother, Jacob, was eight when she was born and proved to be of great influence on her life: 'the Modigliani of Leeds', he was called later by Sir Barnett Stross, their local MP.

The family had made their home in the Jewish community which had grown up amongst the textile and clothing firms of that 'Athens of Yorkshire' with its black classic architecture and Gothic Revival churches. She saw her brother go to Leeds Art School and, with the help of William Rothenstein, Frank Rutter and Sir Michael Sadler, enter the Slade, then at the apogee of its history, with fellow students such as CRW Nevinson, Augustus John, David Bomberg, Mark Gertler and William Roberts. The latter, three years younger than Jacob, was born in Hackney and had won a scholarship to the Slade when he was introduced to his young sister, who later modelled for both of them.

With the 1914 war both served in the army and William Roberts became an official war artist. Sarah married William after the war and dedicated herself to a life as a loyal artist's wife and mother to their son, John. It can't have been easy, with very little money and the conditions of the day. Her husband kept to himself and was perhaps a loner. He was a shy man, recording and accurately observing his subject - largely cockney life, although later figures around the family home in Regent's Park figure strongly. Roberts's concern was human activity, treated formally, with strong draughtsmanship and composition. His paintings' subjects and his family's very private life did not change over 60 years. He was elected an RA in 1964 and died in 1980. All through their life together she supported, defended and helped him achieve his importance today as an artist.

Sarah Roberts had many good and loyal friends, although she could be fierce at times. Her life was often hard but she was always kept going by a continuing interest in meeting and talking to new people, especially the young. She enjoyed listening to and playing the guitar. In her eighties and even in her 90th year she travelled with her son all over Morocco and Spain, and in telling her adventures always conveyed the excitement of what she had done. She was a particular friend to my eldest daughter, also called Sarah, and I am proud to have known her.

(Photographs omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas