exh 1915-1935

Living in Cornwall and London, the mother of Helen Stuart WEIR  is first referred to in a Review of Show Day 1915; in 1922 mother and daughter held a joint show at Lanham's. She exhibited at a number of the leading London Societies, particularly the ROI and SWA, and had her works Delphiniums in Somerset and A May Morning reproduced as prints. When in St Ives she worked with Helen at Rose Lodge Studio, and contributed to the first STISA show at the Porthmeor Gallery - although she was not as regular a contributer as her daughter was.

Nina May Weir-Lewis was an expatriate American artist. She was born on 11
Aug. 1856 in South Butler, New York, the fourth of six children born to the
Rev. Harlow B. Skeel (1824-1909) and his wife Lucy L. Deuel Skeel
(1824-1905). Her father was a much-beloved minister of the Methodist
Episcopal Church who served as pastor in churches throughout New York State.
Nina was originally named Sarina in honor of a maternal aunt, but she changed
her name in early adulthood. The 1880 Federal Census finds the 23-year-old
Nina in her parents' household in Pulaski, N.Y., giving her occupation as
landscape painter. She also gave painting lessons. In May 1881 the Pulaski
newspaper reported the following:

Miss Nina Skeel, of this village, who has been in New York city during the
winter, will shortly leave for Europe. This talented young lady is an artist
of no little repute, orders for her paintings coming in about as fast as they
can be completed. So far as it is known to us, there is something in Miss
Skeel's career peculiarly encouraging to students generally; for, as we
understand it, very much of her proficiency and success in the art is due to
her own energy and perseverance. We recall a conversation had with the young
lady some years ago in which the desirability of a tour in Europe was brought
forward and lightly discussed. Said she: "It seems a long way off, and a
great undertaking, but others have gone with light purses, and perhaps where
there's a will there's a way." Time has tested the truth of the remark, and
the young lady's friends will rejoice in this fulfillment of her daydream.
["Pulaski Democrat" (Pulaski, N.Y.), Mar. 24, 1881, 3.]

Nina was twice married. In1882 she married John Weir (1856-1892), a native of
Lanark, Scotland, by whom she had two daughters: Frances Underhill
(1883-1932) and Helen Stuart (1885-1969). John Weir was a naturalized U.S.
citizen and a successful grain commission merchant with the firm Weir &
Hallett in New York. As his career prospered, the family moved from New York
to the affluent borough of North Plainfield, N.J. After John Weir's death
from consumption (tuberculosis) Nina married on July 2, 1898 David Lewis
(1835-1901), a widower and cashier of the Ilion National Bank, Ilion,
Herkimer Co., N.Y. Lewis died in Ilion in 1901. Unfortunately, this
short-lived second marriage was not a success. The Utica newspaper reported
in 1907 that "about a year and a half before Mr. Lewis's death his wife, it
is said, left him" ["Utica Herald-Dispatch" (Utica, N.Y.), Dec. 27, 1907].
The 1900 Federal Census listed Nina Lewis in N. Plainfield as head of a
household that included her daughters and a servant, but no Mr. Lewis.

In 1902 and 1906 Nina and her daughters traveled to Europe, spending time in
Germany before settling in England sometime after 1909. (Scandal continued to
dog Nina. In 1907, an attorney in Berlin claimed she absconded, leaving more
than $3,000 in unpaid advances and legal fees. During the subsequent
litigation the court attached Nina's New Jersey home.)

Though Nina began painting at an early age, it was in England that she
embarked on a career as a serious artist. She became associated with the
thriving artist colony at St. Ives in Cornwall. Unfortunately, her paintings
are not judged very highly these days. Nevertheless, what Nina may have
lacked in talent she more than compensated for in dogged determination and a
rare independence of spirit


Specialised in flower and still life subjects in all media

works and access

Works include: Delphiniums in SomersetA May Morning


St Ives Show Day  March 1915; Lanham's 1922 (joint show with Helen); STISA March 1923; Royal Institute of Oil Painters October 1915; Piccadilly; Plymouth Art Gallery November 1917,1928-36; Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours April 1918; I; L; RBA; RI; ROI (11) SWA (6)

misc further info

With many thanks to John W Coffey for his additional information received in July, 2016, part of which was achieved in correspondence with David Tovey in 2012.


St Ives Times 19 Mar 1915, 15 Oct 1915, 9 Nov 1917, 23 Mar 1923

Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn and West Cornwall p352

Johnson & Greutzner

Tovey (2003) Creating a Splash;
British Newspaper Archive