(1868 - 1943)

No. 3965 - Ebrington, Chipping Campden

William Carruthers was born William Affleck on the 18th March 1868 to Robert and Elizabeth in Rochdale, Lancashire.   The family returned to Edinburgh and later moved to Warner Road, Camberwell, London.   Robert was a builder who diversified into stage scenery and theatrical pulley systems.   He was particularly remembered for his patented methods for trapdoors and wave effects in Wagner's Ring Cycle at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.   This reduced considerably the number of operators required.

William's passion was painting, mainly with watercolours but also in oils.   He studied art in South Kensington, Heatherleys and the Lambeth School of Art.   His work was shown at the Royal Academy, Royal Institute and Royal Burlington Academy.   His watercolours were accepted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions, London, from 1891 to 1915   Between 1897 and 1900 three were accepted each year.   In 1908 at 39 he married his model, Hilda Carruthers Billston (23) at Blewbury.   They lived in Clapham, London, and had one child, Robert John, three years later.

Many of his paintings feature the Lambourne Valley, Berkshire and in particular the picturesque village of Blewbury.   From 1905 to 1920 he took summer lodgings in Blewbury, Berkshire.   Whilst there, he painted "Picking Wild Flowers" which was made into greetings cards by Medici and has sold prolifically.   "Poetry" shows Hilda sitting outside a cottage.   "Anne Hathaway's Cottage" is an oil, which was also painted as a watercolour for Salmon Postcards.   He won the prize for the best painting in the Pear's Encyclopaedia competition, with "The Rustic Beauty".   This featured Hilda and was made into the colour plate for the 1911 version of the Encyclopaedia.   The watercolour "Autumn" (51.5cm x 35cm) depicts Hilda aged about 30 standing in a wheat field wearing a long white dress embroidered with numerous small flowers.   This was sold at auction in 1990 for £16,000.   His watercolours pass through the auction houses about two or three times a year.

Only later in life did he start working for Salmon Postcards.   Postal dates on cards give a guide as to when a painting was accepted.   In my collection:
          His first card was No. 3688.
          No. 3988      Caesars Well, Keeston, Bromley is dated 4th Sept 1936.
          No. 3961      The Almshouses, Chipping Campden is dated 27th July 1937.
          No. 4145      Stansfield Rock Garden, Hesketh Park, Southport is dated 10th Aug 1937.
These cards were available over a long period of time and hence it is probable that he started with Salmon about 1928 when he was 60.

When painting for Salmon he used the signature William Carruthers or simply WC.   Carruthers was his wife Hilda's middle name.   He clearly wanted to distinguish his commercial work from his other art work.   However, the quality of the work that he produced for Salmon was very high.   Living in London meant that he could travel by rail to locations selected by Salmon Cards.   Occasionally he would be taken to local places in a car by one of the Salmon Directors (he was not rich enough to have his own car).   He stayed with relatives in Edinburgh whilst completing fifteen scenes.   As with the other artists, the historical significance of colour, when postcards from photographs were only in black and white, is an important legacy.   Approximately 300 paintings were converted to postcards in about 10 years.   Some are still on sale in certain locations, e.g. Clovelly in Devon and Willy Lotts Cottage, Flatford (Constable country).   His speciality, both in his commercial and private work, which made him distinctive, was the detail he achieved when painting flowers.

When A.R.Quinton died, William with others, completed a number of ARQ's unfinished works.   He also obtained private commissions to convert a painting into a card produced by Salmon, e.g. The Ram Jam Inn, Stretton, Oakham, Rutland.   This is signed William Affleck.

He died aged 75 in 1943.   Hilda lived to 104.   Although I never met William to talk to, I feel honoured to be associated with such a talented person.

Tony Affleck
21st February 2007

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