Mabel Oliver was born in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, becoming in later years Mrs Mabel Parker.
She was an accomplished artist, having trained at the Slade School, London (1888-1890). There are a number of oil paintings from that period held by members of the Parker family, including powerful studies of male models, and some family portraits. There are also some very effective portraits in pastel. Later in life her painting was mainly in watercolour, the subject matter including evocative scenes from the Breckland with their gnarled Scots pines; lake and coastal scenery; village and country subjects, often including mills, giving her the opportunity to show her skills at depicting reflections in water. Mabel also became very skilled at etching on copper plates, a process involving the handling of concentrated acid, for which she had special sinks installed wherever she lived. Her etchings covered a wide range of subjects, including village and rural scenes, but the bulk of her output was of schools and the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge. Although she signed her paintings ‘M. Parker’, she used a pseudonym ‘M. Oliver Rae’ on her etchings. This appears to have been a deliberate ploy to hide the fact she was a woman, which might otherwise have reduced her status in her dealings with the agents through whom she sold her etchings, especially in Oxford and Cambridge.
Drawings and illustrations for books on topography appear to have been a specialty, as two etchings purchased at a local Penzance bookshop for the Hypatia Collection of Women's Art show topographical scenes in the Fowey area. One of her grandsons has now provided us with personal information and reprints of other scenes in Cornwall, which include etchings of St Ives, Polperro, and Lynton. Though Mabel never lived in Cornwall, she travelled extensively in the county and has left many etchings from her visits here. Two of her great-grandchildren working today are recognised and talented painters/exhibitors elsewhere.
Etchings, drawings and paintings in watercolour
works and access
Hypatia Collection of Women's Art
Polperro - Angela Brazil's House;Couch's House, Polperro; Polperro Harbour from Chapel;
Family correspondent (2012)
Bonhams, Nov 27 sale, 2007 (wc) and Feb 12, 2008 (wc)
Hypatia Collection Catalogue (in press)
Student list, London University (for Slade) confirmed 2012
Sotheby's No. 318, Oct 25, 2007
Tovey, David (2021) Polperro - Cornwall's Forgotten Art Centre - Volume Two - Post-1920, Wilson Books