Tonbridge History

Martin Hardie

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Martin Hardie's watercolour 'Dry Hill,Tonbridge' shows houses on the east side of Shipbourne Road near the junction with Portman Park.

Martin Hardie was born in London in 1875 and went to St. Paul’s School and then Trinity College, Cambridge. He moved to Tonbridge in the 1930s and lived at ‘Rodbourne’, No. 6 (now 10) Yardley Park Road until his death in 1952. He took an active part in local affairs and his name is commemorated by Martin Hardie Way in North Tonbridge.

Hardie came from an artistic family, his uncle being the artist John Pettie. After graduation from Cambridge he started work at the South Kensington Museum (later the Victoria & Albert), working in the library and becoming assistant keeper there in 1914. He married Agnes Pattisson in 1903 and in the same year wrote the catalogue to the V & A's print collection in the National Art Library. He served as an officer in the army during WWI reaching the rank of captain.

He returned to work at the Museum after the war, producing a second catalogue of the library’s graphics, this time on contemporary wood engravers, in 1919. In 1921 he was appointed Keeper of a new department covering engraving, illustration and design. He remained at the V & A until his retirement in 1935 and built the graphics collection into one of the finest in England, particularly in contemporary prints.

Hardie was a great authority on the histories of English watercolours and etchings and the author of many books and articles*, including in 1906 English Coloured Books. His three volume Watercolour Painting in Britain was published after his death between 1966 and 1968.

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Tonbridge Parish Church from Church Lane – drawing by Martin Hardie

 (THS 8A.014)

He was also a practising artist whose personal output included watercolours, nearly 200 prints and 25 sketch books. His first exhibition was in 1908 at the Royal Academy. He was a full member both of the Royal Engravers and the Royal Watercolour Society, and was awarded a CBE for his contribution to British art.

James Laver who worked under Hardie at the V & A called him 'the most considerate of chiefs, the most helpful of guides, the most delightful of friends' and said 'his is a refined and delicate talent founded upon good draftsmanship and an exquisite sense of atmosphere'.

Etchings and drawings by Martin Hardie can be seen on the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco website.

*Some of Martin Hardie's books are on the open shelves in Tonbridge Reference Library.