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 Clare Consuelo Frewen Sheridan  (1885 - 1970)



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Lived/Active: New York/California/Montana / England/Russian Federation      Known for: Classical figure sculpture, writing

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Ad Code: 3
Clare Sheridan
from Auction House Records.
Sir Winston Churchill
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information is from Mary Scriver, art researcher and writer from Montana, who initially became interested in Clare Sheridan, sculptor of portrait busts, because of Clare's visit in 1930 to the Blackfeet Reservation and attendance at the Winold and Hans Reiss School at St. Mary's Lake in Montana.  Scriver wrote: "During her visit to the Blackfeet, Clare became close to an aunt of Joyce Thomas, a Great Falls artist, who left papers when she died recently in her nineties.  Joyce sent me the Anita Leslie biography and asked me what I knew.  I read it and ordered Clare's own books."

Clare Sheridan was the grand daughter of one of the celebrated Brooklyn-born Jerome sisters, Jenny and Clarita.  Jenny had married the Duke of Marlborough of Blenheim Palace, and Clarita married Moreton Frowen, a writer on monetary reform and Member of Parliament.  Clare was the daughter of Clarita Jerome, and Winston Churchill was the son of Jenny Jerome, which made Clare and Winston cousins.  Because of Clare's non-conventional life including accusations of spying, she called upon Winston several times and with positive response to extricate her from difficult, harrowing situations.

Claire's natural energy was freed by the early death of a beloved husband, Wilfred Sheridan, an officer in World War I, and she developed by a lifetime of devotion to art and writing.  She moved among several milieu, alternating her work as a sculptor with journalism and travel writing. She was a close friend of Harry James, H.G. Wells, G.B. Shaw and others -- but offended Rudyard Kipling so lost his friendship. She was often in the midst of wars and revolutions. She did portrait busts of some of the best-known early 20th century dignitaries including Lenin, Trotsky, Charlie Chaplin, Gandhi, Mussolini and Churchill, many whom were enemies of each other but friends of hers.

Clare's own autobiography is titled Naked Truth (Harper & Brothers. 1928) and the biography by her young niece, Anita Leslie, is Cousin Clare: The Tempetuous Career of Clare Sheridan, 1976.  These books plus other accounts of her life make it clear that Clare Sheridan, like Isadora Duncan or Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney or Anna Hyatt Huntington, was artistic, inspired, driven and achieving.

Clare's sojourn in the summer of 1930 on the Blackfeet Reservation and the adjacent Indian lands in Canada resulted in another book, Redskin Interlude.  (Nicholson and Watson, London, 1938). She shared the interest in social justice and ethnic people that Hans and Winold Reiss demonstrated and was especially close to Hans, whom she met in New York where she was very much a part of the artistic community as well as the social whirl. Hans, with his brother, Winold, operated the Reiss School where she took lessons.  The School's main location was in the City, and a second one was on Lake Mary in Glacier Park, Montana. Hans invited Clare to visit him in Montana, and she accepted as the Park had become a destination of special interest, perceived by many travelers, especially English and Europeans, as an American "Switzerland". Of Clare's visit, Mary Scriver wrote: "I have a hunch there is more to find out about the cluster of of artists who seem to be associated with the reservation in the Thirties, maybe because of Great Northern promotion and maybe because it was expensive and a little risky to go to Europe."

Responding to Reiss' invitation, Clare also was dealing with the sadness of the death of her son from appendicitis.  She drove from New York in her Brit V-8 with right hand steering cross-country to the Blackfeet Reservation. She made slow progress because of a radiator that constantly boiled over until a German-American mechanic simply replaced the radiator. Once she got in the vicinity of where she was headed, Hans, who was a mountain climber and trekker as well as a sculptor, guided her the last miles. During the summer, he even taught her how to make carvings from whole tree trunks.  His own carving of an Indian from a tree trunk has stood for nearly a century at the Big Hotel in East Glacier Park.

Of working in this medium, she wrote: "How strange that through losing one's child, a very young one, I discovered myself as a modeller, through losing another I found myself a carver.  It seemed to me I hadn't been a sculptor until now, for modelling is not sculpting.  To tackle wood is a great sensation.  Wood lives, comes to life under one's hand, one wrestles with it, humors it, coaxes it, argues with it.  The grain gives fight." In this context her images, were often religious and Catholic, such as Madonna with Child

Clare also established close relationships with Blackfeet tribal council members, especially Levi Burd, with whom it is suggested she had an affair and who was heavily involved in tribal politics. He was described in Paul Rosier's book, Rebirth of the Blackfeet Nation, as "the patrician half-blood who profited handsomely from Blackfeet oil leases through the 1940s."

In the fall of 1937, Clare left for return to England by driving to San Francisco and taking a ship through the Panama Canal. She never returned to the area, but the trip reflected her gift for friendship with people nothing like herself, an intrepid amateur anthropologist, qualified by her ability to fall in love as well as closely observe.

During her life as a wide-ranging traveler and distinguished portrait sculptor, Clare Sheridan had gotten into "interesting" predicaments including in 1920, ten years before her visit to Montana, when she went to Russia just after the Russian Revolution so as to portray Lenin, Trotsky and other lesser leaders. She left her children with her mother and barely mentions them in her diary, which became a published book, From Mayfair to Moscow.  She recalled working in cold rooms with little light with a mass of water-based clay to get likenesses. Food was a constant problem, and the only thing she found digestible was caviar.  With just a cloth coat, she found it so cold she went about with a rug wrapped around her, until officials finally obtained a fur coat for her.  This trip, where she was protected by Russian men, of high and low social status, stirred hints of sexual scandal and also of her spying and of her approving communism, which she, like so many other artists and intellectuals found attractive because of the ideas of equity for all people.

In summary, Mary Scriver wrote of Clare Sheridan that: "she was one of those women liberated by the social shifts that war imposes, partly by killing a generation of the best men and partly by pressing women into new roles.  . . .The sense of entitlement these women felt, alongside an acute awareness of being 'other' and therefore outside the rules, gave them common cause with Communists, Indians, rebels and other oppressed and suffering peoples.  But also they felt themselves equal to the biggest names and risked going into dicey situations all the time, partly because of having friends and relatives such as Winston Churchill who could and would save them.  Their currency is not money, but skill and reputation. . . .On top of everything else, Clare Sheridan was beautiful, but beauty was not Clare Sheridan's only value.  Or maybe there are many kinds of beauty."

Email communication to AskART and blog of Mary Scriver,

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Clare Sheridan (born as Clare Consuelo Frewen; also known as Clare Consuelo Sheridan), was an English sculptress and writer who is known primarily for creating busts for famous sitters, and writing diaries recounting her worldly travels. She was a cousin of Sir Winston Churchill, with whom she had enjoyed an amicable relationship, but her support for the October Revolution caused them to break ranks politically in the 1920s.

Clare Consuelo Frewen was born in London, the daughter of Moreton Frewen of East Sussex and his American wife, the former Clarita "Clara" Jerome. Her mother was the elder sister of Lady Randolph Churchill. She married Wilfred Frederick Sheridan in 1910; they had three children. Wilfred Sheridan was a Lieutenant in the Rifle Brigade and was killed while leading his men at the Battle of Loos in 1915. Her godmother and namesake was Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough.

After the death of her second child, Elizabeth, in 1914, Sheridan sculpted a weeping angel as an outpouring for her grief. It was from this piece of art that she discovered an ability for sculpting, and after the death of her husband a year later, she moved from France to London to study under John Tweed and Professor Edouard Lanteri.

While visiting America, Sheridan had a love affair with Charlie Chaplin. She enjoyed travelling around the world, and among her circle of friends were Princess Margaret of Sweden, Lord and Lady Mountbatten, Lady Diana Cooper, Vita Sackville-West and Vivien Leigh.

Her famous busts of her first cousin Churchill can be found at Blenheim Palace, Chartwell, Harrow School and Hastings Town Hall; the original plaster is in the possession of her great-nephew Jonathan Frewen. In 1956 Sheridan moved to Belmont House a fine property in Hastings Old Town. She had a large collection of American Indian artifacts, some of which are on display at Hastings Museum and in the Frewen family's ancestral village of Brede in Sussex.

In the summer of 1920 a Soviet Russian trade delegation on a visit to London invited Clare to travel to Russia to make busts of notable revolutionaries. In the autumn she travelled to Moscow, where her sculpting subjects included Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky and Lev Kamenev. While in Russia Sheridan is reputed to have had affairs with more than one of her sitters. Her reputed relationship with Kamenev is thought to have led to his divorce from his first wife, Olga Kameneva; and author Robert Service, in his 2009 book, claims to an affair between Sheridan and Trotsky. Trotsky signed and dedicated a painting of himself to Clare.

Sheridan's dalliance with known Soviet agents earned her the suspicions of the Security Service, which became convinced that she was an agent and a dangerous anti-British propagandist. She attracted the attention of the Security Service after being invited to Moscow in 1920 to sculpt Lenin, Trotsky and Zinoviev. This earned her an MI5 file, in which she was labelled as a dangerous propagandist. The service noted: "She has conducted herself in a disloyal manner in various foreign countries, adopting a consistently anti-British attitude." In 1925 telephone taps revealed that she had, allegedly, passed details of conversations with Churchill, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, to William Norman Ewer, foreign editor of the Daily Herald and a known Soviet agent. Later in 1925 Sheridan moved to Algiers, where it was noted by MI5 that "she appeared to be comfortably off and debt-free for the first time in 10 years".

After the war she converted to Roman Catholicism travelling to Assisi for that purpose and she moved to The Spanish Arch Galway, where she continued to sculpt, albeit subjects and icons of religious importance before returning to live in Belmont House in Hastings, Sussex. She died in 1970 at the age of 84, having outlived two of her three children. She is buried in the churchyard of St George's, Brede, Sussex beside her nephew Roger Frewen and her great-niece Selina Frewen.


These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Born in Ireland on Sept. 9, 1885. In 1920 Sheridan was in Moscow where she did a bust of Leon Trotsky. She died in Sussex, England on May 31, 1970. Exh: Sculptors Guild of So. Calif., 1922 (bust of Charlie Chaplin).
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
NY Times, 12-5-1920 & 6-3-1970 (obituary).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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