Mystery of who painted Honiton mayor’s portrait is finally solved

PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 April 2017 | UPDATED: 09:24 02 May 2017

Artist Pauline Selhurst restoring a painting. Ref mhh 16 17TI 1315. Picture: Terry Ife

Artist Pauline Selhurst restoring a painting. Ref mhh 16 17TI 1315. Picture: Terry Ife


The mystery of who painted the imposing portrait of a former Honiton mayor has been solved.

For almost a century the large picture of the town’s famous suffragette and First Citizen Juanita Maxwell Phillips hung in the town council offices.

But over the years it has deteriorated and been damaged, and since 2014 was left propped against a wall after the council moved to The Beehive.

Mayor Caroline Kolek launched a fund to restore the portrait with the work being undertaken by Honiton artist and restorer Pauline Selhurst.

And she has discovered it is the work of Sir John Lavery, one of Britain’s finest artists, making it potentially valuable.

Ms Selhurst said: “The portrait is one of the most interesting pieces of restoration to have come my way recently. She was such an amazing woman who contributed to the quality of life.

“She shone a torch to better things ahead and we can still learn from her example.”

Tony Simpson, who gave the first memorial lectures on Mrs Phillips in 2009 and later co-published a biography of 
her by Dr Julia Neville, said: “We believe the portrait dates from the 1920s when Mrs Phillips began serving as Borough Mayor, which she did 11 times until 1945. She became the only female freeman in the history of Honiton Borough and also served as the first female councillor on Devon County Council from 1931 until her death in 1966.

Her public work was highly regarded by many bodies including women’s suffrage movements.

Copies of Mrs Phillips’ biography ‘Viva Juanita’ are available at a special price of £5 (plus p&p) from Tony Simpson: h.simpson1941 @ Tel 01404 548228

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