Whether working as a painter, printmaker or illustrator, Edward Julius Detmold produced images that are meticulous and intense. As a result of his developing speciality in animals and plants, they are also highly distinctive. His approach was forged in a close collaboration with his twin brother, Maurice, but his career was able to survive Maurice’s suicide in 1908, and flourish into the 1930s. Edward Julius Detmold and his twin brother, Charles Maurice Detmold, were born at Acacia Villas, 97 Upper Richmond Road, Putney, then in Surrey, on 21 November 1883. They were the sons of Edward Detmold, an electrical engineer of German descent, and Mary Agnes (née Luck), and younger brothers to Nora. 97 Upper Richmond Road was the home of Mary’s uncle, Dr Edward Barton Shuldham, a physician with a wide range of interests. Shuldham and his wife, Elizabeth, had brought up Mary and, in turn, would bring up Edward and Maurice, possibly because her marriage failed during the late 1880s.
By 1891, the Shuldhams had moved to Hampstead, and it was there that Edward and Maurice received their education.
For a brief period, after the age of six, they attended drawing classes at the Hampstead Conservatoire in Eton Avenue – their only formal training. Otherwise, they studied under their great-uncle, and were taken by him to sketch at the Zoological Gardens and the Natural History Museum. They also spent a part of each year at Ditchling, in Sussex. Their artist uncle, Henry E Detmold, further encouraged their developing artistic skills, and they began to absorb the influence of other artists, including Dürer and various Japanese printmakers.
Edward and Maurice began to exhibit their work in 1897, at the age of 13, at the Royal Academy and Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and, in 1900, held a joint show at the Fine Art Society. They also launched themselves as illustrators and printmakers, in 1898, with the small portfolio, Eight Proof Etchings, which sold out almost immediately. This was followed by two publications: Pictures of Birdland (1899), which married their images to verses by great-uncle Shuldham, and Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (1903), which was published by Macmillan as a portfolio, while the original watercolours were exhibited at the Dutch Gallery, in Brook Street. During the opening decade of the twentieth century, their successes allowed them to take on 3 West Hampstead Studios, in Sherriff Road, where they installed a printing press, and also The Cottage, Horsebridge Common, Steyning, Sussex.
Their distinction as artists, and particularly as printmakers, was marked in January 1905 by their both being elected as Associates of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers. However, they resigned in the November of the same year, possibly to retain their creative independence. Continuing to apply themselves assiduously, they worked not only as watercolourists, draughtsmen and printmakers, but also in fresco and stained glass. Sadly, this burst of productivity was brought to an end, in 1908, by the death of Charles, who committed suicide by inhaling chloroform. He left a note saying, ‘I have expressed through my physical means all that they are capable of expressing’. His death had one salutary effect, in that it reconciled his parents, who began to live together again.
Though bereft of his brother and collaborator, Edward Julius Detmold continued to work, exhibiting at various venues, including the Baillie Gallery and the Arlington Gallery, and illustrating a number of books, notably The Fables of Aesop (1909), Maurice Maeterlinck’s The Life of the Bee (1911) and, a decade later, Tales from the Thousand and One Nights (1924).
Detmold lived at Priory Court, Mazenod Avenue, West Hampstead, with his great-uncle Shuldham, until Shuldham’s death in 1924 – and then with his parents, who seem to have lived in the same mansion block. The Detmolds shared their flat with the still life artist, Laurence Biddle, and his musician friend, Harold Hulls. Biddle may have influenced E J Detmold’s still life compositions, and certainly worked alongside him, possibly at a studio in Smyrna Mansions, just around the corner from Mazenod Avenue. In 1932, they held a joint exhibition at the Museum Galleries, Haymarket. By that date, Detmold was working from the Rossetti Studios in Flood Street, Chelsea. And, in the same period, the Detmolds, along with Biddle and Hulls, moved a few streets north of Mazenod Avenue to 137 Broadhurst Gardens.
E J Detmold had largely withdrawn from public life by the time of his father’s death in 1940. Then, in 1940, he moved to ‘Bank House’, a large house on the edge of Montgomery, North Wales, with his mother, sister Norah, and Norah’s engineer husband, Bertram Joy, and also Biddle and Hulls. In his later years, he was treated for arterial disease, a condition that resulted in depression and fainting attacks. On 1 July 1957, he committed suicide, by shooting himself in the chest.
His work is represented in the collections of the British Museum and the V&A; and The Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge).
Further reading: Campbell Dodgson, rev Chantal Serhan, ‘Detmold, (Charles) Maurice (1883-1908)’, also including ‘Edward Julius Detmold (1883-1957)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, vol 15, pages 925-926; Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms, ‘The Detmold Twins: Artistic genius and depression’, West Hampstead Life, 14 August 2013