Clara, Ellen, Hilda and Henrietta Montalba

Clara Montalba decorative page.

These four sisters (a fifth sibling seems not to have been artistic), daughters of a Swedish father, Anthony Montalba, and a British mother, were regular contributors to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions in the latter part of the last century. They all started exhibiting at the Royal Academy during the 1870s while living in London in their father's house.

Clara Montalba RWS (1842-1929)

Clara Montalba was born in Cheltenham, studied art in Paris under E. Isabey and then at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice, where she lived in the late 1880s and 1890s. She became the most well-known and successful of the Montalba sisters. She exhibited from 1866 at the Royal Academy and other venues, most prolifically at the Old Watercolour Society. She painted oils and above all watercolours, showing scenes on the Grand Canal, the Regatta, lots of studies of fishing boats, landscape scenes and coastal scenes from the Low Countries and some English subjects such as London Bridge. She became RWS in 1892, her reputation being founded on delicate tones and refined colours combined with careful composition. She helped Kate Greenaway and Helen Allingham with their watercolour technique. She also produced a few book illustrations.

Ellen Montalba (active 1868-1902)

The younger sister of Clara Montalba, she was born in Bath and studied at the RCA and abroad, again being based in Venice. She did portraits, genre and landscapes. One picture, At the Well, showing a composition of many figures with a slightly Burne-Jones look and portrait style figures, is an almost symbolist work. Among her exhibited portraits was one of her sister Clara.

Hilda Montalba (active 1876-d.1919)

Hilda Montalba also painted genre and landscape subjects, again including many scenes in Venice. Although like Clara Montalba she was apt to show fishing boats, she tended to concentrate much more on close-up studies of the people in the boats than the whole scene. A good example of her work is Boys unloading a Venetian Market Boat - the content of the boat being enormous pumkins. This picture is at the Sheffield art gallery.

Henrietta Skerrett Montalba (1856-1893)

Henrietta Montalba was the youngest of the four artistic sisters, worked as a sculptor, and often exhibited at the RA. She produced mainly portrait busts in terra cotta and marble. The Victoria and Albert Museum has her bronze Boy catching a crab.

Minton design after Ellen Montalba.

Other artists