Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery
Newsletter No. 67
Posted here with their kind permission,
but split & re-arranged.
Francis "Frank" Smyth Baden-Powell
29 July 1850 – 25 December 1933
Henrietta Smyth Baden-Powell worked very to see that all her sons were educated for respectable careers in the military, the law or foreign service. Her fourth son, Frank, was the youngest of the boys born so close together in the first years of her marriage.
He qualified as a barrister of the Inner Temple, but it may have seemed a disappointment that he turned to painting and sculpture before making a name in the law. In fact, Frank enjoyed a considerable share of the family’s talent for figurative art, and was for some years the son best placed to earn money enough to assist his worthy mother and siblings.
However, Frank had a taste for the high life, and was not always as obliging as his mother would have liked. But he helped her and his sister when he could and, although Agnes decidedly preferred her younger brothers, in their later years she and the now-widowed Frank lived together, albeit more of necessity than affection.
Frank was well educated, at St. Paul's and Marlborough before Balliol College, Oxford (BA 1876, MA 1878). But his inclination lay in art, and although little remembered today, he was soon and conspicuously successful, commanding fees of several hundred pounds per canvas at a time when names now much better known were struggling to sell at all.
He studied in Paris with no less mentors than Auguste Rodin and Carolus Duran, and exhibited there (including the Salon of 1895, just a little after its heyday as the world’s greatest art event). He also exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy from 1880.
Frank excelled in the then popular genre of nautical history painting, with titles including The Last Shot of the Spanish Armada, Nelson at St. Vincent (an allusion to his own family history), Trafalgar Refought, The Wreck of the Foudroyant, Nelson Nearing Trafalgar, and an inevitable departure into recent military history with Colonel Baden-Powell at Mafeking.
In something of a Powell tradition, Frank came late to a family life of his own. In 1902, as his art was slipping out of fashion, he married the affluent Florence Sydney Watt (c.1878-1914); also in the family tradition, they became parents the very next year. Florence, like the wife of his brother George, was an heiress from the Antipodes, the daughter of the prominent land- and racehorse-owner James Watt of Napier, New Zealand; on her death, she left a personal estate of £56,128 (equivalent to some £24m today, in terms of average wages).
Frank died on Christmas Day 1833, and was buried in his family’s grave in Kensal Green Cemetery after a funeral in St. Mary’s Parish Church, Wimbledon. He left a rather more modest £1874.