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Diana Drew (1912-1978)

Diana with her mother Sylvia Drew (née Peart Robinson).

Educated at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London, my great-aunt Diana Drew was a teenage prodigy whose works appeared at the successful British Lino-Cuts exhibitions in 1929, 1930 and 1931. A passionate yachtswoman and supporter of the Westmorland Tories, she became a Land Girl during the Second World War and devoted much of her time to looking after her widowed mother, Sylvia Drew.




Diana Drew was born at Ighten Grange on Padiham Road, Burnely on 17 August 1912, the second of five children born to John Malcolm Drew, aka Jack Drew, and his wife Sylvia. She was two years younger than her older sister Pamela. A son Johnny arrived in June 1914, followed by Hermione (Golly) in 1916 and Anthony in 1918.

I believe she spent her early years at Ighten Grange. In October 1916, her father moved to Simonstone Hall, near Burnley, from where he ran the calico printing business until his death in 1935. She also spent time at Dallam Tower at Beetham, near Carnforth, which was rented out by Sylvia’s parents, the Peart Robinsons, from at least 1916. In about 1923, the family moved to the beautiful house at Eversley in Heversham, just north of Milnthorpe, in what was then Westmorland. They would remain at Eversley until the Second World War.

An article in The Spectator of July 1929 (below) suggests Diana was a child prodigy when it came to art. My first record of her art is two works at the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, both dated from 1925, when she was only 13 or 14. The first is ‘The Man and the Tiger’, a linocut printed in brown ink, which depicts a figure in a white turban and loincloth grabbing the head of a tiger with foot extended over the stomach of the tiger. The figures of man and tiger face one another, forming a circle. The second pictured is entitled ‘The Negro, 1925’ and depicts a “crouching, stylized figure wearing white skirt and holding a flexed bow and arrow inscribed within a circular border, printed in brick red ink.”

In 1927, aged 15, she produced a hat-trick of works that I know about, namely a wood cut called ‘The Charleston’ [1],  An African Ploughman’ [2]  and ‘The Water Plough’. There was also a linocut called ‘The Plough’ which was available, as of November 2023, via Michael Parkin Fine Art in Chelsea, here.


‘The Water Buffalo’, a lino-cut by Diana Drew, from 1927.


The Grosvenor School of Art


Man and Tiger, a lino-cut by Diana Drew, from 1927.

At some stage in the 1920s, she and her elder sister Pamela attended the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London under Iain MacNab (1890-1967). McNab, who I think my father remembers, was a Scots American wood-engraver and painter who had founded the school in 1925 at his house at 33 Warwick Square in Pimlico, London. The Grosvenor School pioneered the art of original linocut in the UK. As a useful biography from Campbell Fine Art observes:

‘Iain Macnab was an exceptional draughtsman and a highly versatile artist whose particular talents included wood engraving, linocut, lithography and painting. One of the most influential teachers of his era, Iain Macnab gathered around him a group of brilliant and innovative artists who taught every medium of graphic art at his school. Iain Macnab’s particular stress was towards the rhythm of a composition and the way in which lines of force were distributed around a balancing dividing line.’ [3]

A number of young artists from Australia went to work with MacNab. According to the Wikipedia entry for the Grosvenor School:

‘No formal curriculum and students studied what and when they wished. There were day and evening courses: life classes, classes in composition and design, and classes on the history of Modern Art. Frank Rutter taught a course entitled “From Cézanne to Picasso”. Macnab’s wife, the dancer Helen Wingrave, gave a dance course. The school did much to revive interest in print-making in general, and particularly in the linocut, in the years between the Wars. Artists associated with it have come to be known as the “Grosvenor School”, and their work commands high prices. The Grosvenor School closed in 1940.’


The Archer, a lino-cut by Diana Drew, 1929.


The Redfern Lino-Cuts Exhibitions 1929-1931


Polo, a lino-cut by Diana Drew. For more, see here.

Between 4 July and 27 July 1929, Claude Flight, one of McNabb’s key assistants, organised the ‘First Exhibition of British Lino-cuts’ at the Redfern Gallery on Old Bond Street, London.

Diana exhibited a work called ‘The Archer’ in this landmark exhibition of nearly a hundred prints. One commentator noted how The Archer ‘compressed into a circle seemed disconcertingly strange and primitive’.[4]

The Spectator deemed the work ‘good’ and noted that the artist ‘Miss Diana Drew … I understand, is still in her early teens.’ She was, in fact, seventeen. The Spectator was so-so about what he saw:

‘Those responsible for the first exhibition of British Lino-Cuts have made certain that we shall have plenty to look at, for they have got together nearly a hundred prints at the Redfern Gallery. Except that linoleum is used for the blocks, the prints do not appear to be, as claimed, a very new form of art, and some of them are so near to woodcuts as to be indistinguishable from them. Greater ease in working and cheapness should be the chief claims for this medium, and the limits of adaptability will always make for a broad simplicity. The lino users claim that better colour can be transferred from their material, but, beyond a slightly softer effect, the claim does not seem to be justified. The colour stands out rather thickly on some of the prints.
The tricks of the trade, such as backing the print paper with silver paper, can be seen in Mr. Claude Flights’ Brooklands. All Mr. Flights’ work is good, his Swing-Boats especially giving the attributes, as well as expressing all the sensations. Miss Sybil Andrews has got a warm sort of glow into her Oranges, and the swaying semi- circle of her Straphangers is an amusing design. Other good prints are The Trinity by Mr. McDowall, Mr. Peter Luling’s Persephone, Mediterranean Pines by Mr. Edmonds, and The Archer by Miss Diana Drew, who, I understand, is still in her early ‘teens. This exhibition offers a chance to anyone who wants a hit of original work at a modest price. G. G.’ [5]

Nonetheless, the exhibition was an ‘unqualified success’ and went on to the USA, while some of the works went on a tour of the north of England. When a second lino-cut exhibition was organised by Claude Flight at the Redfern in July 1930, the art critic for the Yorkshire Post believed it would enjoy ‘a like success.’ All the works on show were printed by hand from blocks cut in ‘the common linoleum of our floors’. For visitors, the Yorkshire Post reasoned the ‘lino cuts would make good decoration and they are cheap — very cheap; so that any visitor to London wishing to take back something at once modern and decorative might well consider the investment of a few pounds amongst them.’ Applauding the ‘consistently high’ standard, the Yorkshire Post critic maintained that no work was indifferent but among the five names ‘one might perhaps especially notice’ was Miss Diana Drew again.[6] The work that caught the critic’s eye may have been what The Connoisseur critic described as ‘Miss Diana Drew’s pleasantly toned Charleston’. [7]

Fox Trot, a lino-cut by Diana Drew, now held at the Brooklyn Museum. A version of Fox Trot from was on sale for £350 in November 2017. Measuring 175 x 120 mm, it comprises an original colour linocut, printed from three blocks in two shades of crimson and grey, on pink-tinted tissue-thin japan.

Another work Diana created in about 1930 was Fox Trot, a linocut on rice paper, which is now in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, New York. This may have been acquired during the 1930 US tour.

Elizabeth Harvey-Lee, an honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, described For Trot as “an interesting combination of linocut and chiaroscuro woodcut techniques.”

The second British Lino-cut exhibition was still on show at Darlington when the Redfern Gallery held a third exhibition in July 1931. The Yorkshire Post opined that this was ‘better technically than its predecessors,’ and, in such straitened times, observed that many of the works on show were for sale for little more than a guinea. Six artists were singled out for particular applause, Diana Drew among them. [8]

‘Linoleum and decoration are not always synonymous terms,’ observed the London correspondent of the Western Morning News, ‘but that beauty can spring from the crudest floor lino is evident the third exhibition of British lino-cuts.

The same correspondent hailed Diana Drew’s ‘Ice Hockey’ as being ‘above all … exciting in the subtlety of its colour, in its compact design and quick movement.’ [9] Another critic remarked that Diana had ‘a particularly intractable talent even under Flight’s renowned tutelage.’ [10]

It is not clear why, or if, Diana gave up art but she seems to have focused on riding horses and a passionate love of sailing in the 1930s.


Land Girls


The Tatler, Wednesday 10 January 1940.

Diana’s father died in 1935, when she was 23. When her sister Pamela married Bill McClintock Bunbury, 4th Baron Rathdonnell in November 1937, Diana was her only bridesmaid. She wore a redingote dress of maize-coloured velveteen piped with red with a small red cap.

In April 1938, she came to Ireland to join her sister at the Punchestown Races: Pamela wore ‘a stone blue plaid suit and a vagabond hat of tan felt’, while Diana Drew wore ‘a suit of Glen Urquhart tweed and a dark brown felt hat.’ [11]

In January 1940, Diana was back in Ireland when she and Pamela were pictured at the Baldoyle Races.

In about 1941, Diana and her widowed mother Sylvia Drew and her younger sister Hermione moved out of Eversley House and into The Lodge. This is where my father stayed as a child. Di and Hermione also became ‘Land Girls’ when they took on and worked the 45-acre Bank Farm at Leasgill or Heversham, in Cumbria. They kept a dozen or more Kerry cows that they hand milked; this continued some 20 years after the war. Jimmy Freer worked for them full time on the farm. My father recalls that his wife, Isobel?, was ‘always very kind to me.’

Eversely House and The Lodge were both sold after the war. They subsequently moved to the former rectory up the hill, which they named High Leasghyll.




All three sisters inherited a strong love of sailing.  When the Drews were in Glasgow, they had great yachts on the Clyde based at the Royal Northern Yacht Club. When they moved south, this was continued through the Royal Windermere Yacht Club which had a keen class of seventeen footers.  On the death of their father in 1935, Pamela inherited No.12 Snark, not long converted to Bermudan rig;  when she moved to Ireland, Diana took on and Hermione would crew for her. Hermione later had a 14 foot dinghy too.

Diana and Hermione competed very well with the other, mainly male, teams and Diana made many friends amongst the families of Roderick Bentley, Patrick Crossley, Acland, Musgrave, While and Chew.  A long-term member of the Sailing committee, Di was considered so tough that she should have been Commodore of the club.  She built a replacement for Snark in the 1950s;  they also taught my father and his sisters to sail competently, a pastime they all much enjoyed.


Good Friends


Diana never married although she reputedly had a soft spot for a Manchester industrialist by name of Barry Smith who had a yacht called Caprice.

Another close friend was called Peter Scott who, my father recalls, had a seventeen footer No.2 Waterwitch  in the same Walker’s boatyard near Bowness-on-Windermere where Snark was kept at that time. Word had it that she and Peter were lovers. [11b]


Pamela and Diana Drew in The Tatler, 14 June 1950


High Leasghyll


Diana Drew, 1951

Diana and Golly also devoted much of their time to looking after their mother. As Rosebud put it, ‘both sisters sort of gave up men to look after their mum after their dad died, or perhaps they hid behind that excuse’.

Sylvia Drew died at High Leasghyll on 11 January 1970. Diana was an executor to her will, alongside James Winder Stone, aka Jimmy Stone, who my father recalls as ‘a lovely man and most helpful to me.’ He was a solicitor with Cobbetts of Pall Mall Court, 12 Marsden Street, Manchester. [12]

Diana was considered the brains of the family, managing both the farm and the finances. My father thinks she was a director of Alexander Drew & Sons, the calico printers, and recalls a visit to them in Burnley in the 1950’s. ‘She always spoke despairingly of the firm who could not make a profit even in Coronation Year with all that bunting!’


Tory Party


Apart from looking after her mother, various “good works” and sailing whenever she could, Di was very active in the Conservative Party. She was elected an officer of the Women’s Advisory Committee in 1950, and again in 1957. [13]  In September 1955, she was noted as the secretary of the Women’s Advisory Committee for the local branch of the Tories.[14] In May 1957, she was among 200 attendees at an annual general meeting of the Westmorland Division Conservative and Unionist Association, which was held in the Ambleside Conservative Club. At that event, she was elected an officer of the Women’s Advisory Committee.[15] Meanwhile Golly ran a pack of Girl Guides and was, I believe, Westmorland Commissioner.


Farewell, 1979


Diana died at High Leasghyll, Milnthorpe, Cumbria on 26 March 1979, aged 66.[16] Family lore holds that she had organised and invested her finances so well that, when she passed, Golly had little to do but keep things the way she left them in order to be financially secure.

She was buried in Heversham, as were all of her siblings except Pamela.


End Notes


[1] ‘The Charleston’ is pencil signed in the margin and measured 6 ½ ” x 4 ½ “.

[2] An African Ploughman, which measures 4 ¼ ” x 5 ¼ “, was sold by Mallam’s Auctioneers for £75 on 17 December 2008.

[3] See the full biography of Iain McNab from Campbell Fine Art, here. In 2016, I contacted Lora S. Urbanelli, the then director of the Montclair Art Museum in Montclair, NJ, who wrote about McNab & co. She replied:
“Boy, it’s been a long, long time since I was deep into this subject.  When I was, it was Diana’s work that I was made aware of, but I sadly never had a lot of information on her, let alone Pamela.  In fact, for some reason at the time I thought she might have been Australian, as there were a number of young artists from Australia who went to work w/ Flight and MacNab.

I’ve poked around your website and see your multiple talents and interests, so I’m sure you’ve looked at more (and frankly better) studies of this group than my catalogue.  For instance, Stephen Coppel at the British Museum did a large catalogue a few years after mine, and he probed a much further than I did. I wish I had more insight for you, but once I left the curatorial world to go into museum administration, my research all but stopped (she admitted with shame)…Great to hear from you though; thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories!’

On Lora’s advice, I wrote to Stephen Coppel  at the British Museum on 15 October 2016, but I did not hear back.

[4] Jenny Uglow, ‘Sybil & Cyril: Cutting through Time’ (Faber & Faber, 2021), here.

Inverted view of ‘The Water Buffalo’, a lino-cut by Diana Drew, from 1927.

[5] British Lino-Cuts. The Redfern Gallery,’ The Spectator, 12 July 1929, p. 12.  Her round linocut of The Archer here; it was sold on Ebay in October 2017 for £150. On the back of this, I made contact in Sept 2016 with Michael at the Redfern Gallery who replied: “I have passed the email on to our Directors, who I am sure will be very interested to read about Diana and Pamela Drew. Ultimately, I don’t think we have any further info on either Pamela or Diana Drew – of the books we have here on the Grosvenor School, Diana is sometimes referred to, but it seems that very little is known about her, unfortunately. I will check some of the Redfern catalogues in our archive, to see which shows they exhibited in (and how many prints they showed), but these tend to be very basic, detailing only the artist’s name and the title of the work – it is very rare for there to be a biography, certainly for group shows. We will continue to keep an eye out for any further literature relating to them, and if we do find anything, will certainly pass it on to you.”

[6] “British Lino Cuts The first exhibition of British lino-cuts which was held at the Gallery in July, 1929, was an unqualified success. The Exhibition was sent to America and another made a tour of England. If we may judge the quality of printing and technique in this exhibition, opened at the Redfern Gallery yesterday, a like success should await it. Mr. Claude Flight, who has himself some interesting work in the exhibition, tells us that all the proofs here exhibited have been printed by hand from blocks cut in the common linoleum of our floors. Such courage in experiment deserves to retain the success it has won. The characteristics of this exhibition are movement and life as well as pleasing colour. These lino cuts would make good decoration and they are cheap — very cheap; so that any visitor to London wishing to take back something at once modern and decorative might well consider the investment of a few pounds amongst them. The average maintained, as always at the Redfern, is consistently high. There is no indifferent work, but we might perhaps especially notice that of Mr. Iain MacNab, Miss McDowall, Mr. Cyril Power, Miss Diana Drew, and Mr. A. L. Falkner. A. E.” (Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – Thursday 24 July 1930)

[7] The Connoisseur, Volume 86, Issues 349-352 (Hearst Corporation, 1930), p. 197, notes ‘Miss Diana Drew’s pleasantly toned Charleston’ at the exhibition. Mallam’s Auctioneers Sale dated Wednesday 17 December 2008 included this lot: DIANA DREW (Exh.1930-1931) – ‘The Charleston’, wood cut, pencil signed in the margin and dated 1927, 6 1/2″ x 4 1/2″; and one further by the same hand – an African ploughman, 4 1/4″ x 5 1/4″ (2). Sold for £75.

Fox Trot by Diana Drew.

[8] ‘British Lino-Cuts. Remarkable success attended first and second exhibitions British Lino-cuts held in the Redfern Gallery, and as the third exhibition, now open at the same gallery, is even better technically than its predecessors, it should surpass their record. As Mr. Claude Flight explains for those who are unfamiliar with the technique of lion-cuts, all the prints shown in this exhibition have been printed by hand from blocks by the artists in the common linoleum of our floors. The method has the happy result of giving expression to varied technical powers and of making possible some remarkable colour effects. These lino-cuts are very cheap, many of them no more than one guinea, and afford a delightful method of pictorial decoration within the reach of all. This no doubt explains their growing popularity. Of those who exhibit in this year’s exhibition we noticed, in addition to Mr. Claude Flight, the work of Mr. Boxsius, Miss Julia Mavrogordato, Miss G. Malet, Mr. Howey and Miss Diana Drew. The previous exhibitions made subsequent tours in the North-—the second one is still on view in Darlington—and the experiment should be worth repeating.’ (Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – Thursday 16 July 1931).

[9] Western Morning News – Saturday 18 July 1931, p. 8.

[10] Print Quarterly, 1988, Volume 5, Issues 1-4, p. 169.

[11] Irish Independent – Wednesday 27 April 1938, p. 14.

[11b] I may have muddled my Scotts as this appears to be a different man to Sir Peter Scott (1909-1989), the ornithologist, painter and MTB hero son of explorer Robin Falcon Scott. This explains why Artemis Cooper had no idea what i was talking about when I suggested Diana and Sir Peter were lovers; we met after she gave a talk at Borris in June 2017 about Jane Howard, the novelist, who married Sir Peter in 1942 but divorced him in 1951. (Jane went on to marry twice more, her third husband being Kingsley Amis.) There may be a Somervell link as Jane’s mother was Kit Somervell, a dancer with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and a daughter of composer Sir Arthur Somervell. Apparently, her mother disliked her and preferred her younger siblings. Artemis Cooper said Peter Scott fell in love with fellow artist John Winter (1930-2012) while in Windermere. Anyway, I thought about all this when I helped Miriam hang two paintings by Peter Scott in the Top Room at Bishopscourt, namely ‘Shovellers on a Windy Dawn’ and ‘Mallards in a Stormy Sky.’

[12] The London Gazette, 5 May 1970, p. 5138.

[13] Penrith Observer, 6 June 1950, p. 3; Penrith Observer – Tuesday 07 May 1957, p. 14.

[14] Penrith Observer – Tuesday 27 September 1955, p. 2.

[15] Penrith Observer – Tuesday 07 May 1957, p. 14.

[16] Her cause of death was described as (a) Carcinomatosis and (b) Carcinoma of the right breast (excised).