Jean Mitchell

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

Celebrating the life this morning, of Jean Mitchell (1861-1941), a Sheffield artist whose work is largely forgotten, but which deserves mention.

She was born in Sheffield, daughter of artist Young Mitchell, a former pupil of Ingres in Paris, later Headmaster at the Sheffield School of Art, and Mary Elizabeth Smith.

Educated in Sheffield, she spent some time in London and Paris, but her artistic talents were encouraged at the School of Art, where she obtained two silver medals for life drawings.

Her work was sent to Paris for exhibition, and she was represented for three consecutive years at the Royal Academy, the first year her works finding a purchaser.

An Old Italian by Jean Mitchell. Photograph by Art UK.

Mitchell painted many portraits of Sheffield’s prominent citizens, amongst them Dr Joseph Law, which hung in the Sheffield Medical School and a duplicate at the Sheffield Royal Infirmary. But she wasn’t confined to portraits, also creating watercolours and miniatures on ivory, her best work coming between 1897 and 1936.

Joseph Law (1897), MD, Honorary Secretary to Sheffield Medical Society (1842-1852). Photograph by Art UK.
Dr Arthur Jackson by Jean Mitchell c.1890. Photograph by Art UK.

In 1905, she married Sheffield painter, Frank Saltfleet, whose reputation was enhanced with watercolours of landscapes, rivers and marine subjects. He was a protégé of Frank Ruskin and exhibited at the Fine Art Society and the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours. Mitchell was his second wife, and together they lived on Psalter Lane.

For about twenty years, Jean taught at the Sheffield School of Arts (by now called the Technical School of Arts) as a teacher for figure painting. She resigned in 1924 and opened her own studio on North Church Street, where she carried on teaching, and specialised in portraits, miniatures, and flower studies.

Portrait of a Man (1903) by Jean Mitchell. Photograph by Art UK.

In later life, her portraits of children were popular, and being fond of animals, she gave special attention to painting dogs and horses.

Frank Saltfleet became President of the Sheffield Society of Artists and died at home in 1937. Jean Mitchell died four years later, leaving £2,124 in her will.

Saltfleet was considered a minor artist and today his pictures sell for a few hundred pounds. Mitchell’s work has fared much better and several of her pictures survive in her home city at Museums Sheffield and Sheffield Archives, while Dr Law’s portrait hangs at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

British Newspaper Archive

NOTE: The Sheffield School of Art opened in 1843, lessons being given in a rented room above the Bath Hotel (still surviving) on Victoria Street, off Glossop Road. Young Mitchell was appointed Headmaster in 1846, and held the post until 1863, when ill-health forced him to resign. It transferred to Sheffield Corporation in 1901 and placed under the control of the Education Committee in 1903. In 1926, it was recognised as the College of Arts and Crafts, subsequently becoming Sheffield Polytechnic School of Art and Design and is now a department within Sheffield Hallam University.

The Deaconess by Jean Mitchell. Photograph by Art UK.