Edyth Starkie

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Edyth Starkie (27 November 1867 – March 1941) was an established Irish portrait painter and sculptor who was married to Arthur Rackham. She was born on the west coast of Ireland at Westcliff House, County Galway.

Early life[edit]

The youngest of six, she spent most of her youth at Creggane Manor, Rosscarbery, near Cork where her father, William Robert Starkie JP (1824–1897), was a resident magistrate, who had also taught himself to play the violin.[1] Her youthful behavior was said to be so wild and outrageous that at Mass in Skibbereen the parish priest denounced her, along with her cousin Fanny, from the pulpit.[2]

When she was sixteen her mother, Frances Maria Starkie, shut up the house, put her husband[3] into rooms in Cork and set off with Edyth on a grand tour of Europe, lasting two to three years. In 1884 she studied art in Paris at the Académie Julian under Jules Joseph Lefebvre and Tony Robert-Fleury. She then continued her studies in Germany, where one of her brothers, Rex, was an officer in the German Army. In Cassel, Edyth became engaged to a Prussian officer, Colonel von W-, at Potsdam, causing a major scandal when she finally broke it off because she couldn't stand the stiff Prussian attitudes; her fiancé would insist on challenging any man whom Edyth so much as smiled at in the street to a duel. In 1895, after a brief return to Ireland she moved to London. Her mother joined her after the death of her father in 1897.[4]

Marriage to Arthur Rackham[edit]

She first settled in 118 Adelaide Road and, two years later at 3 Wychcombe Studios. Here she studied under Henry Tonks at the Slade School of Art[5] Edyth and Arthur met over a garden wall in 1898 and quickly became friends. Arthur, a fellow artist living at 6 Wychcombe Studios, had become a member of the Royal Watercolour Society (RWS) and was afraid other members might mock his fantasy pictures in the company of more traditional watercolorists at RWS exhibitions. She persuaded him to put Grimm and Morte D'Arthur into the Winter RWS Exhibition of 1902 which were very well received. She did much to encourage his fantasy drawings at the beginning of his career. Their personalities; Edyth, quizzical, ironic and imaginative like the Irish; and Arthur, prim, precise and very English in manner, in spite of his bohemianism and his elfish kinks couldn't have been in greater antithesis. She was always his most stimulating, severest critic, and he had the greatest respect for her opinion. She also was full of mischief and always did her best to shock him.[6] They were married on 16 July 1903 at St. Mark's, Hampstead and honeymooned in North Wales. Their daughter, Barbara, was born in January 1908.


The grebe hat

She was a member of the International Society; her exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts in London included Lilla (1897), St. Cecilia (1898) and Pippa Passes (1899).[7] Works by her were bought for the National Museum, Barcelona, where she won a gold medal at the Barcelona International Exposition in 1911 for her painting The Black Veil ; and the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris, which purchased her painting, The Spotted Dress in 1913.[8] The Luxembourg collection has since moved to the Musée d'Orsay.

Notable family members[edit]

Her older brother was the Greek scholar and last Resident Commissioner of National Education for Ireland under British Rule, W.J.M. Starkie. Her nephew was the scholar Walter Starkie and her niece, Enid Starkie was known for her biographies of French poets.



  1. ^ Derek Hudson, Arthur Rackham, (1960), p.54-56.
  2. ^ http://irishartsreview.com/irisartsreviyear/pdf/1991/20492685.pdf.bannered.pdf
  3. ^ http://churchrecords.irishgenealogy.ie/reels/d-80-3-3-074.pdf
  4. ^ James Hamilton, Arthur Rackham; A Life With Illustration (1990), pp. 52–54.
  5. ^ http://google.com/search?q=cache:1T5DDYC6XT8J:www.camdennewjournal.co.uk/archive/f130203_2.htm+edyth+starkie&cd=15&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
  6. ^ Walter Starkie, Scholars and Gypsies (1963), pp. 18–19.
  7. ^ http://www.artmagick.com/blog/post.aspx?id=12041&name=wallpaper-calendar-december-2009
  8. ^ James Hamilton, "Edyth Starkie", Irish Arts Review Yearbook, (1991-1992), pp. 155-164.