Dorothy Butterfield was born in Yorkshire to parents Lilian and Herbert Henry Butterfield, and was brought up and educated in the West Riding. The family moved to Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire in the early 1920s and Dorothy enrolled as a mature student at the nearby Watford School of Art in the early 1930s.  She taught at Corran Girls’ School in Watford for four terms until 1931 when the school moved.

Dorothy first exhibited in 1935 at The Royal Society of Artists in Pall Mall, London, with an etching, and after that she regularly showed and sold her work – etchings of townscapes and buildings, in England and abroad, watercolours of rural Buckinghamshire and oil paintings mostly of flowers – at the Royal Academy, the Society of Women Artists, the Paris Salon, the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, the Russell-Cotes Gallery in Bournemouth, the Whitechapel Art Gallery in East London with other members of the AIA (Artists International Association), and at the United Society of Artists. The 1939 AIA exhibition, in which Dorothy showed, was a prestigious event with some prominent names, among them Duncan Grant, Quentin Bell, Vanessa Bell, Augustus John, William Coldstream, Carel Weight, Julian Trevelyan, Eileen Agar, Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Adrian Stokes, Eric Gill, and Eric Ravilious.

The 1930s seem to have been Dorothy’s most productive decade. It appears that she stopped painting during the Second World War when she lived with her parents in Chalfont St Peter and devoted her life to looking after them and making home produce.  Her parents had died by 1954, and not long afterwards she moved to Coggeshall where she lived in the Guild House – now the left-hand side of the White Hart Hotel – and resumed painting, mainly her bold flower compositions in oils.

Throughout her life, Dorothy sketched and painted on her travels. She produced some scenes from Belgium on a trip there in the 1930s and also a remarkable collection of now vanished scenes from Cyprus in 1958. She had travelled there with her older sister, Phyllis Storey, and in 1963 she encouraged Phyllis to leave Yorkshire and buy The Cedars, 80 Church Street, Coggeshall from the estate of Lady Baines, the writer Frank Baines’ mother.

Frank, a colourful and successful author (‘Look Towards the Sea’, ‘In Deep’’) and adventurer, had forged a close friendship with Dorothy and they set up home together in the mid-1960s at 42 East Street, Coggeshall, a beautiful house with panelled rooms. She had a studio there and created a stunning garden. In 1966 she visited the Amalfi coast with Frank Baines. Inspired by the scenery there, she painted a series of lively watercolours – among her best work.  In 1972 she was diagnosed with liver cancer and died on her 72nd birthday.

Before her illness, Dorothy had agreed to a retrospective exhibition of her work at the Fountain House Gallery in East Bergholt, and this went ahead a fortnight after her death in 1972.  A total of 42 works were sold.

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With grateful thanks to Gail Turner, John Smith, Dick Cresswell and Trevor Disley for permission to use their pictures here.