Born in Bethnal Green, London in 1885, Sydney Jessett moved to the South West in 1939 with his evacuee granddaughters and wife, Ethel.
Apart from service in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War, Sydney Jessett was a clerk for the Church Missionary Society until his retirement that year. Living near Kittwhistle until 1945, he painted many landscapes of the area, favouring Pinhay Bay and Golden Cap. His talent was natural: at evening classes in east London he had been banned from the annual exhibition because he was too good!
Moving into Lyme, the family settled in above what is now the Coombe Street Gallery, where Jessett continued to paint prolifically. A voluble cockney, maybe mildly eccentric, he walked miles sketching, accompanied by his dog. He entertained visitors in his dark little studio, where on the backs of old posters, on wallpaper and scraps of mount board, he reflected colour and light in impressionistic local scenes.
Sydney Jessett never made a fortune; his paintings sold for 2/6d, or to a lady, a kiss.
Visitors to the museum enjoyed one of his pictures in our April “Drawing Inspiration” exhibition of landscapes, but it has not been since 2005 that the Museum has mounted a major exhibition of his work.
Museum researchers Richard and Barbara Bull have put together a full exhibition of this little known but talented artist using pictures from the museum and his family’s collections, including 7 new paintings donated by Michael Irish.
The exhibition will be in the Rotunda gallery and run from October 1st till December 1st.