"Someday they may be reclassified as the equivalent in South African visual arts of the Brontë family in English literature. Certainly, had they lived abroad, their legacy may even have enjoyed the status of a Bloomsbury Group. Time will be the judge of this." - Professor Alan Crump
The Everard Group comprised of Edith King and Bertha Everard, Bertha's daughters Ruth and Rosamund, Ruth's daughter Leonora and Leonora's daughter Nichola. Together they made up the remarkably creative family of women painters who lived in Carolina in Mpumalanga. Isolated as they were from the artistic communities of Pretoria and Cape Town, they developed a visual language that has avoided many of the sentimentalities of 20th century South African painting.
Ruth Everard-Haden moved to Paris to continue her painting studies. Dissatisfied with the restrictive and conservative
curriculum of the Slade, she received encouragement from her mother regarding this change. Bertha Everard had spent a similarly frustrating time in London as a young artist. During the years 1923-1927, Ruth's exposure to the École de Paris
and the Fauves, notably Matisse and Cézanne, saw her assimilate elements including a confident use of line and a Fauvist sensibility towards colour and paint which she was to employ throughout her career.
"Though Ruth Everard may have felt a distinct preference for landscape painting, she kept in mind that she would have to develop as a portrait painter if she was to earn a living by art."
She was further encouraged by a letter written to her from Bertha detailing a visit to Bonnefoi, the family farm, undertaken by the Schweikerdt's of Pretoria in 1929. Bertha wrote saying they were very taken with her [Ruth's] portraits
. Given the visual legacy of the landscapes produced by Bertha and her sister Edith King, it is understandable that Ruth would have wanted to carve a niche for herself in this talented family. Some of the strongest paintings by Ruth that appear illustrated in The Women of Bonnefoi
include portraits and still lives.
Mrs Wilmot of Carolina
has been rendered in recognisably bold lines and confident colour resonating with rich detailing. Characteristic of Ruth's oevre
the attention to all over detailing includes the background and fabrics - the shawl in particular is worked with an intricate field of flowers. Similarly the tapestry fabric of the throw to the left of the subject is richly worked with stylised animals and patterning. Given Ruth's embrace of the École de Paris
it is interesting to compare this work to Henri Matisse's La Robe Jaune Avec Guitare
given the similarities in the pose and vibrancies of the respective artist's palettes. Composed during the winter of 1922-23
Matisse's sitter is integrated into the overall patterning - her yellow dress echoes the wallpaper and carpets; her features are simplified in order to retain her anonymity. Ruth's sitter is however the focus of this work - her calm features are framed by white tiger lilies and her shawl. The lines of her white evening gown draw the viewer through the composition.
Undertaken as a commission, Mrs Wilmot of Carolina, was rejected by the sitter who deemed it unflattering. This work was purchased directly from the artist in the mid-1980s by the current owner.
This confident work was one of the last painted by Ruth - she was forced to stop painting in 1956 after a cataract operation failed to correct her deteriorating eyesight. Her earlier comments surrounding her family's output seem particularly poignant given this early ending of her career: "There are not so many good that we can spare the ones that are
 Esmé Berman, Art and Artist's of South Africa, AA Balkema, Cape Town, 1974, p 111
 Frieda Harmsen, The Women of Bonnefoi: The story of the Everard Group, JL van Schaik (Pty) Ltd, Pretoria, 1980, p 85
 Frieda Harmsen, The Women of Bonnefoi: The story of the Everard Group, JL van Schaik (Pty) Ltd, Pretoria, 1980, p 143
 Frieda Harmsen, The Women of Bonnefoi: The story of the Everard Group, JL van Schaik (Pty) Ltd, Pretoria, 1980, p 149
 Michael Strauss (ed), Impressionism & Modern Art: The Season at Sotheby Parke Bernet 1973-74, Sotheby Parke Bernet Publications, London & New York, 1974, p123
 Frieda Harmsen, The Women of Bonnefoi: The story of the Everard Group, JL van Schaik (Pty) Ltd, Pretoria, 1980, p 93