Celebrating International Women's Day: Britta Laurenson

Miss Britta Astrid Laurenson (1893-1945) was born and brought up in Lerwick. She was a gifted self-taught artist and spent most of her working life as a governess to the Broom family in the Mull of Kintyre and the Salvesen family in Africa. Much of her artwork was done during the 1920s and 30s. Her portraits are exquisite, skilfully capturing the style of that era. Unfortunately, many are untitled, but some are thought to be of the family and the children she cared for.

Britta painted landscapes as well as portraits. The museum has a wide-ranging collection of her work including various landscapes painted where she worked; her African watercolours highlight her talent for capturing the light beautifully. Correspondence with one of the Broom family suggest that some of her landscapes are of the Isles of Jura, Gigha and Islay, painted probably from the Kintyre coast.

One of the children, Rosemary, whom she looked after in Scotland has a letter which shows that Britta reluctantly handed in her resignation to the Broom family following a trip home to Lerwick, as her parents wanted her to come home. Rosemary remembers Britta as being very quiet - she recalls that Britta found it difficult to reprimand the children in her care, but they had so much respect for her that they wanted to be good and do the right thing. Britta could play the piano beautifully and learned the children to play.

Britta obviously enjoyed her work having left Shetland to find employment as many young Shetland women did during this period. She spent her life caring for others and we are lucky to have such a fine legacy of her talent and travels.

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