1918 – 1975
Margaret Scott Somerville was born at the Old Ford Farm, Ashford, Middlesex on 2 June 1918, daughter of the artist and collector Charles Somerville and his wife Rose Annie née Chantree, who married in London in 1905 and moved to Suffolk in 1931, as sister of Stuart Somerville [q.v.].
Known as Peggy, she was a child prodigy who learned to paint at the same time that she learned to talk. When she was three, two of her watercolours were selected for an exhibition held by the Royal Society of Drawing. At the age of seven one of her paintings, ‘Happy Days by the Sea’, was exhibited at the New Irish Salon in Dublin, having been chosen on merit by judges who knew nothing of her age. Her first one-woman ‘retrospective’ was held when she was nine at the Claridge Gallery in London.
She was hailed as a child genius by newspapers throughout Britain and as far away as Boston, USA and in a matter of days every one of the hundred paintings on show had sold. After studying at the Royal Academy Schools for just a few months, she gave up formal study with her first solo exhibition was at the Beaux Arts Gallery, London in 1932. In 1937, living at Fox House, Wigginton, Tring, Hertfordshire, when she exhibited at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. Served as a Land Girl 1942-1945 when she, and her widowed mother, moved to live with her brother Stuart at Newbourn, Suffolk.
In 1960 she, with her sister Rosemary, lived at The Stone House, Middleton, near Westleton, Suffolk from where she made frequent excursions to the nearby coast, particularly to Aldeburgh. From Suffolk she painted vigorous oils, watercolours and pastels, her beautiful Aldeburgh paintings showing a rare sensuality and sensitivity.
After her early fame, her national reputation declined and in 1968 she received help from the Artists’ General Beneoldent Institute until she was rediscovered by art historian Stephen Reiss (1947-2016) during the period he was managing the Aldeburgh Festival. She died of cancer at the Stone House, Middleton on 29 June 1975. (Stephen Reiss – Peggy Somerville (1996).