Frank Saltfleet

A self portrait in old age. Photograph by View from the Hill

Frank Saltfleet was one of Sheffield’s best-known artists, yet today his work is largely overshadowed by that of his wife, Jean Mitchell.

He was a specialist in watercolour painting, and about 18 months before his death an exhibition of his works was held at the Graves Art Gallery.

Alderman J.G. Graves also presented a group of Frank’s pictures to the city, and in the 1930s were on view at the Mappin Art Gallery.

He was, by profession, a landscape painter, but also keenly interested in music, literature, and drama.

Sheffield During the Coal Strike from Norfolk Park by Frank Saltfleet. Photograph by Museums Sheffield.

Born in Sheffield in 1860, he was sent to St George’s National School, and when he was about 12-years-old, entered the silver trade to learn the art of close plating, later being apprenticed to a cabinet maker.

Frank attended the Mechanics’ Institute in Surrey Street, where his teacher was Mr Read Turner, a well-known Sheffield artist. Some time later he accepted an offer to advance the necessary funds for six months’ study in art at Antwerp, and with several other young Sheffield artists he went to the Academy of Arts there.

Whirlow Brook Hall by Frank Saltfleet. Photograph by Peter Wilson Fine Art Auctioneers.

His travels included tours of Italy, the Adriatic, and several visits to Venice.

Frank was quite out of sympathy with the works of ultra-modernists in any art, and his favourite composers were Mozart and Beethoven. The works of Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, Marlowe and Greene had an appeal to him.

He had several pictures accepted at the Royal Academy, but they were never hung and on many occasions his work was to be found in local exhibitions. Once or twice he exhibited watercolours at the Cutlers’ Hall.

His tastes lay chiefly in the direction of landscapes and seascapes, and woodland and moorland pictures.

“A land and riverscape artist with more than a local reputation. Some of his best pictures have the atmospheric charm of the not too hazy impressionist school. In social circles Mr Saltfleet sings drolly. He is that strange thing – an artist without the professional pose. He has less ambition than many of his inferiors,” said the Sheffield Independent in 1902.

Frank was well known in Sheffield as an enthusiastic amateur actor, taking part in several local productions.

For many years he was a Freemason, attaining a few honours, the chief of them being that of Past Master of St. Leonard’s Chapter at Tapton Hall.

Frank married twice, and after his death in 1937 was survived by his second wife, who was Miss Jean Mitchell, daughter of Young Mitchell, who was the first Principal at the Sheffield School of Art.

Rowing Boats on a Cobble Landing by Frank Saltfleet. Photograph by Invaluable.


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.