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Demelza Donald [1887-1963]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

DONALD, Demelza (1887-1963?)

Romany Caravan

ca 1930

aquatint on paper / 4.8 inches by 6.9 inches

Little is known of Cornish artist Demelza Donald, other than her given name, which places her origins squarely in the southwest of England. Donald was likely a student in the post-WWI years at the Newlyn School, an artists colony at that fishing village adjacent to Penzance (made famous by Gilbert & Sullivan). Newlyn attracted artists for its mild climate, high proportion of sunny days, and picturesque coastline, countryside, and surviving instances of British folk life. Donald’s small aquatint depicts—we believe, based on photographic parallels—a caravan of Romany or Gypsies moving across the dunes; such sights were still commonplace in Britain well into the 20th century, attested by this photograph taken in April 1929 of an encampment at Epsom, in far-south suburban London.

Gypsy encampment at Epsom, Surrey (April 1929). The tall structure in the distance is the Epsom Downs Racecourse.

Donald’s name appears in the British census of 1921 (listed as “spinster”), though it is absent from surviving records of the Newlyn colony.


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