My mother, Josephine C. Brett, was born in London, England on June 9, 1908, within the sound of the Bow bells, making her a true Cockney. In 1930, she graduated from the Regent Street Polytechnic School of Art, followed by a year of study at the University of London from which she received her British Art Teachers’ Diploma in 1931. In art school, she studied a range of arts and crafts, with a specialization in illustration. In 1927, she won the School Bronze Medal for Illustration. From 1931 to 1946, she taught arts and crafts in a variety of settings in England, including a teacher training college and a private girls’ school, and served as an examiner in art for the University of London. She also did a variety of freelance illustration work, including book jackets, menus, advertisements, and gift wraps. During World War II, she served as an art teacher while accompanying a group of children being evacuated by ship to Canada. In 1943, she married George Fairburn Brett, a physicist. In 1950, the family relocated to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was during that time that she took up painting once again. Upon moving to Philadelphia in 1957, she continued to teach children and adults privately while developing her own skills in acrylic painting. Prior to her formal retirement and her return to London, England in 1968, she taught secondary school girls for a year at the Springside School in Philadelphia. The 1970s and 1980s were very productive years for her artistically, and she experimented with a variety of painting styles. After completing a number of large acrylic paintings, including abstracts, still lifes, and those inspired by her travels, she studied silkscreen at the Putney School of Art in her mid-70s and produced a series of prints that drew on her training as an illustrator. In 1987, she held a one-person retrospective art show. She died on April 3, 2000 at the age of 91.
In this gallery, I share a sample of her work.