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Esdaile, Katharine

    Full Name: Esdaile, Katharine Ada

    Other Names:

    • Katharine Ada Esdaile

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 1881

    Date Died: 1950

    Place Born: London, Greater London, England, UK

    Place Died: East Grinstead, West Sussex, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Career(s): educators


    Katharine Esdaile was born to Andrew McDowall, secretary to the Girl’s Public Day School Trust, and his wife, Ada Benson, the first Headmistress of Norwich, Oxford and Bedford High Schools. She went to Notting Hill High School and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. At Oxford, she focused her interest on classics, fascinated by the study of antique sculpture. From 1904 onwards, Esdaile published articles in the Journal of Hellenic Studies and Numismatic Chronicle, primarily on Greek and Roman coins and on classical portrait sculpture. Her first article was published in the Journal of Hellenic Studies, titled “The So-Called Sardanapolus” in 1911. A year later, she completed her work Walpole and Chatham (1714-1760), later published by G. Bell & Sons. While studying at the British School in Rome in 1907, she married Arundell James Kennedy Esdaile, the secretary of the British Museum from 1926 to 1940. Together, they had two sons and one daughter: James, Emmeline, and Martin. James Esdaile, later known as Edmund Esdaile, continued his mother’s work, researching English sculpture after her death in 1950. After the birth of her children, in 1919, she began studying post-medieval sculpture rather than her previous emphasis on Greco-Roman antiquity, focusing primarily on churches and the notebooks of George Vertue in the British Museum. Between 1930 and 1934, the Walpole Society published her work titled Notebooks, on George Vertue. Her emphasis within the art world was often on sculptors and artists with little name but great importance, clearly revealed in her later work on Louis François Roubiliac. In 1927, she published her work: English Monumental Sculpture since the Renaissance, although she is most commonly known for her 1928 work titled The Life and Works of Louis François Roubiliac. Other names she attempted to dignify and promote were Edward Stanton, William Stanton of Holborn, Epiphanius Evesham, and Sir Robert Taylor. Also, in 1928, Esdaile received the Royal Society of Arts Medal for her work on Roubiliac. In 1933, Esdaile published her work titled Temple Church Monuments. And for years, Esdaile worked as a writer for the Times and Burlington Magazine, publishing a large quantity of articles on often seventeenth century artists, like Rysbrack. During WWII, Esdaile urged for the safeguarding of church treasures in countries under attack. She became the first and only woman on a committee working to preserve stained glass, sculptures, and other important church items during air raids. In 1946, she continued her studies in post-medieval sculpture, publishing English Church Monuments 1510 – 1840. She intended to publish a comprehensive dictionary of british sculptors, a task later completed by Rupert Gunnis in 1953 (Dictionary of British Sculptors). After writing nearly 300 articles, many books, and keeping extensive notes throughout her lifetime, Katharine Esdaile died in 1950 in Queen Victoria Hospital, Grinstead, Sussex. Her son sold her notebooks and correspondence to the Henry H. Huntington Art Collection in San Marino, California.

    Selected Bibliography

    • Esdaile, Katharine A. “A Life Of Roubiliac.” Times, January 11, 1924, 11. The Times Digital Archive (accessed April 16, 2019).
    • Esdaile, Katherine A. “Rysbrack’s Works.” Times, 16 Aug. 1921, p. 11. The Times Digital Archive, Accessed 16 Apr. 2019.
    • Esdaile, Katherine, A. “Monuments In Churches.” Times, 7 May 1930, p. 17. The Times Digital Archive, Accessed 16 Apr. 2019.
    • Esdaile, Katharine Ada. English Monumental Sculpture since the Renaissance. Hyperion Press, 1927.
    • Esdaile, Katharine A. The Life and Works of Louis François Roubiliac. Humphrey Milford Press, 1928.
    • Esdaile, Katharine Ada. Temple Church Monuments, Barber. 1933.
    • Esdaile, Katharine Ada. English Church Monuments, 1510 to 1840. Oxford University Press, 1946.


    Contributors: Kerry Rork


    Kerry Rork. "Esdaile, Katharine." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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