Votes for Women – Eve Kirk

Shell Postcard, Votes for Women, Suffragettes 1908. Caption reads 'Every lady votes Shell - motor spirit unequalled' and shows a suffragette holding up a can of Shell Motor Spirit, whilst women in the crowd raise their hands. Artist not given.
(Shell Postcard, Votes for Women, 1908 )

To mark the centenary in 2018 of ‘Votes for Women’ the Shell Heritage Art Collection will be highlighting female artists from our collection who have played strong, leading roles in their professions of commercial and fine art. These women helped to create change within their industry and society as a whole.

The Representation of the People Act 1918 allowed some of the women of Great Britain and Ireland to vote for the first time. The act meant that women over the age of 30 could vote, but only if they were either a member, or married to a member of the Local Government Register, a property owner, or a graduate voting in a University constituency.  The 1928 Act widened suffrage by giving women electoral equality with men. It gave the vote to all women over 21 years old, regardless of property ownership. The call for the vote for women was led by a group of strong, inspiring women known as the Suffragettes.

Eve Kirk (1900 – 1969)

Shell poster number 319, Strand on the Green, Chiswick by Eve Kirke. Landscape painting of the River Thames, running through the Strand on the Green at Chiswick with the bridge in the background.
Strand on the Green, Eve Kirk, 1932

Born in London Eve Kirk studied at the Slade School of Fine Art between 1919 and 1922. She became well known for her oil paintings of metropolitan scenes and urban landscapes of which she created two for Shell, ‘Strand on the Green, Chiswick’ and ‘The Liffey, Dublin’. Although Kirk was also known for painting portraits she chose to paint a still life for the ‘Athletes Prefer Shell’ which was part of the People Prefer lorry bill/poster series.

By 1932, Eve was exhibiting in group exhibitions with John and Paul Nash (both artists in our collection). The Scotsman reviewed the Contemporary Art Society exhibition at Tooth’s in New Bond Street, London and admired her ‘knife-painting of “The Thames, Wapping”‘ alongside work by Ben Nicholson and Sickert.

Poster titled Athletes Prefer Shell, Eve Kirk,1934 with sporting equipment
Athletes Prefer Shell, Eve Kirk,1934

In the summer of 1939, Eve exhibited alongside Paul Nash, again at the Tooth Gallery in London. As reported in The Scotsman at the time, ‘Eve Kirk is well enough known for her dexterous paintings of architectural subjects with the palette knife… One marvels that she can depict so much with only a little instrument shaped like a trowel.’

During the Second World War Kirk continued to paint whilst working for the civil defence in London. She exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts her painting ‘Bomb Damage in the City’ as part of the 1945 National War Pictures group exhibition.

In the mid-1950s Kirk emigrated to Italy and ceased to paint, dying in Siena in 1969 at the age of 69.

Works by Eve are held in public collections such as The Tate, The British Council Collection, the Arts Council Collection and Imperial War Museum amongst others.


Sources :

The Scotsman – Monday 10 July 1939 (The British Newspaper Archive)

Eve Kirk


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