Art and Tragedy – The End of a Genius – Love and Death – Search for Fame.

January 1929

Mexborough and Swinton Times January 11, 1929

Art and Tragedy.
The End of a Genius.
Love and Death.
Search for Fame.

A youth who as a boy attended elementary schools at Swinton, Denaby and Parkgateand who gave proof of great talent as a painter, has died in London under tragic and romantic circumstances.

Details of a remarkable story were revealed on Monday evening  when reports of an inquest appeared in the newspapers. Since then a mass of detailed particulars have  been gathered, all of which are of intense human interest.

Frederick Atkinson, the eldest but one of eight children, after making good anyway in his chosen vocation of painter, met a famous artists model, became infatuated with her, and eventually consumed himsel in the raging flame of his love.

The young artist left home on July 13th, 1926, to seek fame and fortune in London, inspired by a tremendous confidence in his own abilities —a confidence that was justified. After two and a half years, his lifeless body was brought hack to be buried in the midst of his own people in the place where he had his humble beginnings.

The Inquest.

Strange Evidence.

It was on Thursday, January 3rd, that Frederick Atkinson, aged 20, whose home is at 10, Lindley-street, Rotherham, was found gassed in his studio at Bloomfield-road, Maida Vale, London.

The father, Mr. George Atkinson, stone man, employed at Roundwood Colliery, was called to give evidence of identification at an inquest held on Monday, when a verdict of “Suicide while of unsound mind” was returned.

Mr. Atkinson said he last heard from his son about a fortnight ago, when he wrote that he was sending something for the children at Christmas and would see them later.

“My son had been worried lately because he was short of money,” said Mr. Atkinson.

“He was an artist and was doing well, in fact he was doing very well, according to his letters.”

A Helping Hand.

Mr. Allan Hilldick, an engineer, of Blomfield Road, said that Atkinson had occupied a studio in his house since last August. Lately he had complained that things had been quiet. He owed about £4 in rent, but he had not pressed him for money, knowing that Atkinson was not getting much to eat. He and his wife had invited him several times to dinner with them, but he took advantage of the request on only one occasion some weeks ago.

Meeting With Dolores.

Picture from Wikipedia

“A young woman used to go to the studio Atkinson rented,” added Mr. Hildick. ‘She was an artist’s model and made him a lot of promises. I think he was taken in by her

Mr. Oswald: She was going to bring him business —Yes, so he told me. He used to go about with her.

How long had he known her?–Only since about October, I think.

He was infatuated with her?—Yes.

Mrs. Mabel Fredericke, art dealer, of King’s-road, Chelsea, London, S.W., said that she had known Atkinson for the last two years.

Asked by Mr. Oswald, the Coroner, bow Atkinson got to know Dolores, the artists model, Mrs. Fredericke said she was dining with Atkinson at a place in Westminster and saw Dolores there.

Atkinson remarked: “What a beautiful woman! I should like to paint her.”

The Gay Life.

Having known this women in business as an artist’s model, she (Mrs Fredericke) introduced him to her. She thought that he would only paint her, but the next she heard was that they were living together at his studio

Mrs Fredericks said that Atkinson had saved about £150 to £200.

Mr. Oswald: Do you know if he spent this money on the artist’s model ?—She spent the money for him. She was living with a penniless artist.

How       she live with two men at  the same time ?–She went from one to the other.

Asked how he spent his money, Mrs. Fredericke replied that he bought clothes and jewellery for Dolores and took her to restaurants. In one night he spent about £20 on a dinner.

“When he got down to the last pound she disappeared and went back to the other fellow,” said Mrs. Fredoricke. “I warned him of her. He neglected his work and I talked to him very severely about pulling himself together.

“The rumour got about they were to be married, and I told him she was a married woman. She had been divorced twice and had married a third time. That depressed him.

“Brilliant Future.”

Mr. Oswald: He was a good artist, you say?—Yes he had a most brilliant future. We thought so much of his work that we kept him going for about two years

Atkinson, she said, had no training .And only an ordinary education, but he haq studied closey and had read books. When he found that Dolores had been telling him lies he seemed overwhelmed.

“He was self-taught, and it is marvellous how he painted. I have bought more then 240 paintings from him,” she declared. He had no need to worry about money, for he could always earn it. He was saving money to keep his people, and was very upset about there being no exhibition, as Dolores had promised to arrange for him.”

Mr. Oswald: This woman had fed him on lies ?—Yes, all lies.

Mr. Oswald was handed a long letter which tie artist had sent to his parents.

“The father and mother were not going to disclose this letter,” said Mrs. Fredericka “but I thought it should be, as it discloses his state of mind.”

“Very proper,” replied Mr. Oswald, who, after reading the letter privately, turned to his officer and asked: “This woman Dolores She is not in England, is she?”

“I understand she is in Sweden,” was the reply.

Does this young woman know of this inquest ?—I don’t think so.

“Young: She is about 40 !” exclaimed Mrs. Fredericke. “She looks young.”

Tragic Discovery.

Constable Frank Browning said that he forced the studio door and found the artist lying on the floor in front of a gas-fire. His head and shoulders were covered with an eiderdown quilt, and he was grasping a rubber tube in his hand. Gas was escaping from the gas-fire and the windows were closed. He found a small bottle containing white tablets rear the body and three letters. In the man’s pockets was 3s. 1d.

Medical evidence showed that death was due to gas poisoning. Atkinson had apparently taken four tablets of allonal, a sedative drug, which Dr. Baldie, the police surgeon, said he regarded as a very unsafe drug to be in the hands of an inexperienced person

Infatuated And Deserted.

Mr. Oswald said that there seemed to be no doubt that Atkinson killed himself  deliberately, He added: What was the state of his mind? He was a young man, a mere boy, who had got into financial difficulties, but what depressed him far more than this was the fact that he was infatuated with a woman who had deserted him when she found he had no more money.

That woman was nearly old enough to be his mother. I don’t know anything of the woman save what I have been told to-day. She had no hand in poisoning him. She may have led him away, but that is not a crime in law, and had he any common sense or been a man of more experience he would have seen what the game was. It seems a great pity that he should have sacrificed his life in this miserable way.

A verdict of “Suicide while of Unsound Mind” was recorded.

Mr. Oswald, after returning the verdict, picked up one of the letters, and said: “Here is one of the letters which the young man left. He wrote:

“I have been very foolish, but my chief fault was generosity. I am finished. I see no other way out. For myself I ask nothing, for I am proud. Take care of my pictures.

Your broken-hearted son, Frederick.”

“There are some crosses at the bottom of the letter,” Mr. Oswald said. “It is addressed to his parents.

Schoolboy Promise.

Early Days.

A great deal of surprise was caused when the news reached Rotherham.

In his early days as a student it was realised that Frederick Atkinson had extraordinary ability. He lived at Rawmarsh as a youth and his parents have recently come to reside in Rotherham where they have a grocery business at 10, Lindley-street, which, it is understood, was provided for them by their son. The father, Mr. George Atkinson is not a coal miner in the ordinary sense of the, word, but he has been employed lately in stone work at Round wood Colliery.

Frederick was the second of a family of eight. The eldest is a daughter, Edith, aged 23. A brother, George, aged 17, died last year. There remain four sisters, the eldest of whom is twelve and the youngest two, and a brother aged ten.

After leaving school the boy Frederick was sent to ,work with Mr. Nicholson, of Mexborough, painter and decorator, but was not apprenticed in a formal manner The result was that he had occasional spells of employment, first with one master and then with another. In the meantime, he continued his studies in art. Since going to London he had been in the habit of contributing to the family income.

When between the age of 15 and 16 Atkinson was a pupil of Mr. George Burden, formerly art master at the Rotherham Grammar School, at evening classes in Rawmarsh. Interviewed by a representative of this newspaper on Wednesday Mr. Burden said that for 23 year he had been assistant art master at the Sheffield School of Art, and Atkinson was the most remarkable student he had ever come across.Thousands of students had passed through his hands but he had never known one who had seen “tone” more naturally. He was a rapid painter, and while a student could complete the painting of a bird in most beautiful colouring in a two hours session.

On one occasion, added Mr. Burden, Atkinson was making a copy of a small picture and had produced the most beautiful effects. When he showed his paint box it was found that there were only three colours in it. “It was amazing to me,” added Mr. Burden, l how he had produced the wonderful tones with these three colours.”

Excellent Progress.

Mr. Burden added that Atkinson sat for the West Riding County Council painting examination when 15 years of age, and his work was returned marked “Excellent,” with 96 marks out of a possible 100. He sat for the same examination the next two years and on both occasions his work was marked ‘`Excellent.” His forte was water colour landscape and seascape painting, but before he was 17 years of age he had painted a portrait of Miss Gwendoline May Burden, one of Mr. Burden’s daughters, which Mr. Burden said was more like the work of an accomplished artist than that of a student.

When Atkinson anounced his intention of going to London, said Mr. Burden, he thought that it was his intention to follow his trade as a painter and decorator. Atkinson had since told him that he took  a ‘bus and asked to be set down in the middle of King’s-road, Chelsea. He searched for rooms all day. and in the evening went into a coffee house where he saw a notice on the wall which led him to his first lodgings in Markham-place. When Mr Burden saw Atkinson last year he told him he had saved £100

At The School Of Art.

Mr. J. W. Freeth, Principal of the Rotherham School of Art, in an interview with a representative of this newspaper, said that Atkinson came to him as a student in April, 1925, and remained for about 15 months. Ho was still studying under Mr. Burden and gained a West lading Technical Exhibition.

When following his employment, Atkinson had the misfortune to develop blood poisoning He was sent to a convalescent home on the Yorkshire coast and while there made sketches of coast scenes. This was really his first introduction to this form of art. He was admitted as an Associate of the Sheffield Society of Artists, submitting two pictures, “A corner of the kitchen table’ and “A study of fruit.” Ile exhibited at the Society’s exhibition at the Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield, in 1926 and 1927.

“Atkinson was a clever youth of great promise,” said Mr. Freeth, and had he being guided rightly and taken in charge better, there is no telling to what heights he might have risen.” When Atkinson went to London he understood that it was with a striking painting of a Bridlington seascape that he first gained his introduction to the dealers. At first he was not too successful in selling his own work, but made money by copying old masters and doing renovation.

New Year’s Day Visit.

Mr. Freeth went on to describe a visit Le paid to Atkinson, accompanied by his son, as recently as New Year’s Day. They spent the evening with him in the studio in Maida Vale, where the tragic occurrence took place. At first he appeared to be in good spirits, but later referred to the woman, Dolores, and also to another artist. He also showed Mr. Freeth two unfinished portraits of Dolores. He said that he had saved £165, but it had all gone during the past five or six weeks, end he intimated that he had been going about to restaurants with the woman. “I gained the impression that he knew that he had done wrong,” added Mr. Freeth, and thought he had determined to finish the affair and was going to turn over a new leaf.” When Mr. Freeth left the studio, Atkinson made an appointment to meet him at the Royal Academy last Saturday morning.

Careful With Money.

An interesting statement was made in the course of an interview with Mr. T. R. Carlin, teacher of art at Rawmarsh (Ryecroft) evening school, who was a fellow student of Fred Atkinson’s.

“Fred and I used to show each other our work,” Mr. Carlin said, “and we compared it. We kept up this friendship, and he sent to me a number of poems for consideration.

“Unfortunately, all these I have burned. When I went to see Fred last Whitsuntide he had a studio in Fulham-road.”

Mr. Carlin said the boy was very reserved, and was most careful in his habits. He did his own housekeeping, and when he was alone be would not spend more than 9d. on his dinner.

Mr. Carlin mentioned that his fellow student left Rotherham on 13 July, 1926.

His last two figures on his railway’ ticket were 13, and he had £13 in his pocket, but Frederick did not attach any importance to that as he considered 13 his lucky number.

Return to Rotherham.

Mr. and Mrs. George Atkinson, the parents, reached their home on Tuesday night at 11-10 p.m, having made the journey by train from St. Pancras Station.

The van bearing the coffin had not then arrived.

The first question Mr. Atkinson asked was whether the body of their son had arrived. On being told it had not Mr. Atkinson said it had left London at 10-15 a.m., and with it was Mr. James Johnson, Mrs. Atkinson’s brother.

Our representative was informed that the boy’s body was to be brought to the house in Lindley-street, and that the funeral was to take place on Friday, but the time was not decided.

The grave would be as near as possible to that of George, the younger brother of Frederick, at Upper Haugh Cemetery, Rawmarsh. Mrs. Atkinson expressed her gratitude to Mr. Whitworth and Mre. Fredericks, who given them much assistance in London.

Mr Atkinson said there were one or two things which he wished to deny. It was not true that Frederick had bad to get meals from anybody else. He did not run away from home, but went with the consent of his Aaron. He left Rotherham on 13 January, 1926, and had been away 2 years. He came home for Christmas in 1926 and 1927 and was also home to attend the funeral of his younger brother in February last.

With the exception that a daughter had seen him in London no member of the family had seen him since.

Connection with Swinton and Denaby.

Frederick Atkinson was for a time a resident of Swinton. He came with his parents from Great Houghton in 1919, and lived at 3, Duke-street, Swinton, attending the Swinton Bridge School until 1920. He was also resident for a short time at Denaby Main.