Why am I just hearing about Doris Hatt?

I’m not originally from Clevedon but having spent the last twenty four years here and having a great interest in the arts, I honestly thought I knew all about Clevedon’s famous literary and artistic connections. Not so! One of the most over looked and under appreciated artists has to be the twentieth century artist Doris Hatt (1890 – 1969) who was introduced to me by Stephen Lisney whom I got to know through Clevedon Art Club. Find out more about Clevedon Art Club here:

The life and works of this remarkable Somerset artist, with a revolutionary spirit, are being celebrated at a new exhibition opening at the Museum of Somerset. The exhibition “A Life in Colour: the Art of Doris Hatt” is being produced in association with the Court Gallery. It starts on 16th March and ends on 29th June. Find out about the Court Gallery here:

Doris was born in Bath the child of an affluent and well known family. Little is known about her early years but whilst at finishing school in Kassel Germany, Doris was captivated by classical paintings in the Neue Galerie and decided she was going to become an artist. She pursued her passion for art at Bath School of Art, then at Goldsmith’s College and the Royal College of Art. She also spent time in Vienna and Paris.

Doris was a Somerset pioneer of British modernism. She exhibited her vibrant works over five decades, beginning in 1918 when she exhibited two paintings in London. She went on to contribute to many exhibitions in the South West.

Sam Astill, Principal Museums Officer at the South West Heritage Trust, said “ Doris Hatt was a woman ahead of her time – a feminist and socialist whose remarkable life and artistic achievements have remained surprisingly little known.”

Doris’s time abroad, notably in Paris had a profound impact on the direction of her painting style. She absorbed the major influences of twentieth century modernism, including cubism, purism, abstraction and the works of Cézanne, Picasso, Braque, Dufy and Léger. Her work includes portraiture, still life and landscapes. Clevedon, Watchet, East Quantockhead and Wedmore are among the recognisable South West landscapes depicted in her art.

Doris would often return to a scene over many years and respond to it with varying degrees of abstraction as was the case with her pictures of Highdale Farm, which she reinterpreted over a period of thirty five years.

The First World War strongly influenced Doris’s politics. By the early 1920’s she was a committed socialist and well aware of the New Woman and Women’s Suffragette Movements. In 1935 Doris joined the Communist Party and later visited the Soviet Union with Margery. In 1946 and 1947 Doris stood as a Communist Party candidate in elections for Clevedon Urban District Council at a time when there were no women council members. She did not win the seat.

Election leaflet 1 - DBH

Doris’s modernist approach extended beyond her work as an artist. In 1939 Doris completed one of her proudest achievements, the building of Littlemead in Clevedon – an Art Deco/ Bauhaus – style house. She lived there with her lifelong partner Margery Mack Smith, a textile artist and teacher.

Her beloved Littlemead  became a meeting place for like-minded people and Margery and Doris would host Sunday afternoon discussion groups attended by left wing progressives.

Doris and Margery travelled widely in the South West and Europe. Her last trip aboard was to Spain in 1966 where she visited Port Lligat, the home of Salvador Dali. In September 1969 Doris and Margery were planning to move to Watchet but in August Doris died. Doris’s work featured in many exhibitions; just the year before she had exhibited more than 40 works at exhibitions in Clevedon and Clifton.

Doris’s exhibitions included the Royal Academy, the Leicester and Redfern Galleries, Jack Bilbo’s Modern Art Gallery, and Foyles Gallery. In the 1950s and 1960s she had a series of solo shows, including Minerva Gallery, Bath, and Osiris Gallery, Oxford, and a major retrospective at RWA, Bristol, 1960. Michael Wright Fine Art, Bristol held a retrospective in 1998.

Co-curator, Denys Wilcox from the Court Gallery added: “ For fifty years Doris was an acknowledged but under – appreciated artist. We look forward to this exhibition bringing Doris Hatt the wider recognition she so richly deserves.”

The charge for this exhibition is ‘Pay What You Think’  but proceeds from the sale of the book ‘Doris Hatt: Revolutionary Artist’ are to be shared between the South West Heritage Trust and STAR – Somerset Trust for Arts & Recreation. STAR is a charity for Somerset children and young people designated as in need.  Their aim is to provide opportunities for children and young people to build and develop resilience through taking part in music, sport, art and recreational activities.

The Museum of Somerset is part of the South West Heritage Trust, an independent charity that protects and celebrates Somerset and Devon’s rich heritage.

Find out more about the Museum of Somerset here:


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