1913 - 2006
The Judgement of Paris

Oil on board, signed lower left
Image size: 30 x 30 inches (76 x 76 cm)
Hand made silver gilt frame

Family Estate
Kathleen Scale, A Retrospective, Dorchester Museum, 1995, No. 56

The Judgement of Paris tells of an episode in Greek mythology that had fatal repercussions. Paris, a prince of Troy, had been abandoned as a baby after his father, King Priam, learned of a prophecy that he would cause the downfall of Troy. Raised as a shepherd, Paris’s innate nobility surfaced in an unusual sense of fairness. This reputation came to the gods’ attention when his prize bull was beaten in a contest by the disguised form of Ares, the god of war. Rather than contesting the result, Paris chose to graciously accept defeat.

Zeus, the chief Olympian god, asked Paris to settle a long-running dispute. Years earlier, he had held a banquet to mark the wedding of Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis. In order not to spoil the occasion, Zeus forbid the goddess of discord, Eris, from attending. Determined to disrupt the event, Eris threw a golden apple into the banqueting hall. The apple was marked ‘for the fairest one’ and immediately caused a squabble. Three goddesses fought over the apple for many years: Hera, the wife of Zeus; Athena, the goddess of wisdom; and Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

Tired of the dispute, Zeus asked the fair-minded Paris to judge. All three goddesses tried to gain his favour with promises. Hera offered him vast kingdoms; Athena proffered wisdom and skill in war; Aphrodite promised him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris chose Aphrodite.

Although he chose the least martial option, Paris’s decision had devastating consequences. Once restored as a prince of Troy, Paris was granted the love of Helen, the wife of the Spartan king, Menelaus. Enraged, the Greeks raised an enormous army to take Helen back. For ten long years war waged between Europe and Asia. Eventually, Paris was killed and Troy was utterly destroyed.

Kathleen Muriel Scale

Scale was born in Jersey in 1913 to a father in the Secret Intelligence Service, who was in Russia and Romania during the First World War, and an Irish mother whose family hailed from Fermoy, Co. Cork. She and her younger sister and elder brother stayed there with their Irish Grandmother while their parents were in Russia, her father having been posted there as British Military Attache, where later he joined the Staff of the Tsar. Following this her Father was posted to Stockholm as head of Military Intelligence and they spent a happy childhood there and later in Finland.

The family returned to England in 1922 for two years before going abroad again, this time to the Lushai Hills in Assam, where the children enjoyed blissful freedom, riding ponies into the jungle accompanied by their governess, followed by their large pack of motley dogs. They also had a tame black bear, a gib-bon, a Toucan, 7 bulbuls, a blue jay, and a Myrna bird. Mu, as she was called by the family, her full name being Kathleen Muriel Scale, did not believe she was taught anything, in the strict educational sense, by their governess, so it was a shock on the family’s return to England when she had to attend school for the first time.

Scale showed artistic flair in her first childhood paintings and this was later recognised by her parents who moved nearer to Farnham, Surrey, so that she could attend Farnham School of Art. Here she was taught by Otway McCannell, FRSA RBA, later going on to Goldsmiths College where she was under the guidance of James Bateman RA – specialising in composition and painting techniques. She studied the early Renaissance, and was particularly influenced by the work and palettes of Michelangelo, Botticelli and Piero della Francesca, as well as El Greco. Rowand Hilder OBE taught Scale line drawing and wanted her to concentrate exclusively on her drawing – which she resisted. The large mythological and biblically based subjects provided Scale with much scope for adventure and fantasy. Compositions were worked out in her head and then transferred to a sketch book and once satisfied she would produce a working watercolour or drawing which she then squared up ready to meticulously place the work on to the gesso prepared board.

In 1933, at the age of 19, she had her first painting exhibited at the Royal Academy – the exhibition opening on her 20th birthday. Between 1933-1938 Scale had seven paintings accepted and hung – some on the line. Over these years her work was picked out by Punch magazine in three cartoons and by the Illustrated London News, revealing the exceptional originality of her work to a contemporary audience. In 1936 she was invited by the National Gallery of Canada to exhibit at an Exhibition of Contemporary British Art together with artists such as George Spencer Watson, Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell and Stanley Spencer, amongst many others. KMS also exhibited at the RBA and for many years with the Society of Women Artists.

Whilst staying in Cairo in 1939 she met her husband Rupert – an army officer. They were to be married in England in 1940, but when war was declared he could not get home so she left for Cairo at 5 days’ notice with two suitcases and a hat box. They were married in Cairo Cathedral. In Cairo, Muriel Harding-Newman – as she now became – worked in Signals in GHQ Middle East and she thought that she would never paint again. Indeed only two works were produced in Cairo.

Muriel Harding-Newman travelled extensively as an army wife. She considered that with wartime, marriage and a family to raise, she never painted seriously again. Her husband retired from the Army as a Brigadier in 1961 and they bought a house in East Coker, Somerset where at last she had a wonderful studio. Although she returned to her beloved painting she never felt able to approach the time intensive compositional complexities of her earlier works. Here she concentrated mostly on commissioned portraits and decorative watercolours of flowers, as well as several mythological/biblical subjects, on a much smaller scale to her earlier work. They moved back into Dorset in the early 1970s and here she continued painting in oils though mostly focused on flower watercolours.

In 1995 K M Scale/Harding-Newman, as she later signed her work, had a Retrospective Exhibition at Dorset Museum, Dorchester. It was such a success that the run of the show was extended.
Although a number of works on display were not for sale, such as this one, 70 remaining works were purchased – such was her popularity.

Royal Academy, New English Art Club, Royal Society of British Artists, Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum and Society of Woman Artists