Watercolours before 1900

Having gone through our photographs of the whole collection; we have come up with the following, all before 1900.

This is a selection of paintings:


These are travel notes illustrated dated 1893 starting in Livorno (Italy) and ending in Lucerne (Switzerland):



These are travel notes dated 1894 illustrated in Norway:



The following watercolours were painted in Switzerland. They are in an album dated 1899:



Jean Playfair and her husband Ernest travelled from 1921 until 1924 to France to promote tourism.

Jean Playfair painted what she saw and achieved two paintings of the Cathedral of Reims when still in ruins after the German bombing.



All pictures concerning France

Jean Playfair’s vision of post-war: The United States of Europe in 1915

Steinried, 1913


When the War I was declared, Jean and Ernest, along with many others, did not quite perceive the impact of it at first.They were sure it could not last and, after helping streams of people stranded in Lausanne on their flight homewards, Jean drew a map of their vision of post-war Europe: The United States of Europe in 1915. They sold dozens of hand-drawn copies of this map in favour of the Red Cross.

Jean Playfair’s map of The United States of Europe


Events, however, took over.   The war went on for four interminable years and the guide book was no longer called for. They stayed on in Lausanne, it was their home in a neutral country and it became a refuge for many.

Mont Olivet House 1918 – Beans for English people



Ernest took to gardening. He produced vegetables for the entire English community still in Lausanne. Jean volunteered for the Red Cross and set up an audacious plan.



She contacted Swiss military authorities suggesting that they come to an arrangement with Germany to allow prisoners of war in camps in Germany to come to Switzerland to be housed in the empty hotel under the strict supervision of the Red Cross. Her plan worked! 67,000 prisoners of war were duly transferred to Switzerland and 4,000 English prisoners of war were housed in Chateau d’Oex. Jean was there to welcome them with Colonel Picot whom she had initially contacted and the local population gave them an enthusiastic welcome as well with the brass band playing and flags flying.

Her joy with the success of her plan was overshadowed by the news that her eldest son, Hellier, had been killed in action at Tekrit in Irak. She was broken hearted as she welcomed the prisioners of war who came to Chateau d’Oex.

Christ Church in Lausanne, 1914

To this day Hellier’s flag hangs over the War Memorial plaque set up at Christchurch in Lausanne in honour of the sons of the English families of Lausanne who had given their lives on behalf of peace.

Peace of a sort came in 1918.   Ernest and Jean decided to revive their business. A “Peace Edition” was published and business tricked back, but the fire had gone out of Ernest, he died, defeated by events, in 1924.

London, 1943

Throughout her life she continued painting her watercolours, she painted what she saw, she faithfully portrayed whatever caught her fancy, not only idyllic mountain scenes she loved, but also cities, villages, towns, cathedrals, bridges and buildings. She left us an unequalled heritage.

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