Olympic (1911)
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Dec. 7, 2010

Years ago I was given watercolors of the Titanic and the Olympic (shown below) by an English woman who received them from the aunt who raised her. Both of the paintings are signed "W. Jeneway."  The Titanic painting (shown below) is dated 1912 and I was told was made as it was leaving on its maiden voyage from Southampton. I believe the aunt lived in Southampton at the time and was present in the departure crowd. The Olympic painting may have a date on it but I cannot tell because of the way it is framed. Both of the paintings show the ships in heavy seas, with waves splashing far up their hulls. The Titanic is seen from the starboard side and the Olympic from the port.

What is curious about the pair is that the "W. Jeneway" signature on the Olympic is quite different from the one on the Titanic. The Titanic signature is very tightly and meticulously drawn while the Olympic signature is larger and uneven. I have not been able to find any other paintings or pictures of these two ships in such heavy and frothy seas. There is a record of a sale by Bonhams on October 18, 2005 that is described as  "Lot No: 822 W. A. Richards 'H.M.S. P.34 1916', signed, inscribed on label verso, watercolour and bodycolour, 18 x 24cm , together with another watercolour by Will Jeneway - 'H.M.H.S. Aquitania', signed and inscribed, 24.5 x 30cm. (2) Sold for £153 inclusive of Buyer's Premium ."

Because of the way the watercolor I have is framed, I do not have a complete signature visible for the Olympic, but...there is no question that that this is the work of your grandfather.  The signature I have is "W. Jeneway", not "Will" but the "W" is identical in both signatures, as is the "n" in Jeneway.  In addition the word "OLYMPIC" on your attachment is identical, and I mean identical in all respects, to the word on the the watercolor I have.  It almost looks like the "OLYMPIC" on your attachment was pasted on to my watercolor!  The only difference is that there is no "HMS" in front of "OLYMPIC" on the watercolor I have.  I would be very curious to know if you know whether your grandfather was right handed or left handed.  I would guess that he was right handed and the signatures we have were written by his left hand, because the signature on the Titanic painting is cursive,  much smaller, meticulous, slanted to the right and neatly underlined.  I cannot imagine how someone could do it with a non-dominate hand.  Most of the "lefties" that I have known have cursive writing that slants to the left because of the curious way they hold a pen. 

The paintings of the Titanic and Olympic I have were originally in separate frames, each about six inches wide and 14 inches tall.  The English woman who gave them to me had them put together in one frame, with the Titanic on the port and the Olympic on the starboard, looking like they might collide.  (Of course in that situation the Titanic would have had the right of way!)  I have never taken the back covering off of the frame but I was told that the every inch of each original painting is still there sans frames.  I am going to try to take pictures of the framed pair, each ship individually, and particularly the two very different signatures.  I do not know how well this will work out because unfortunately the glass in the frame is not the non-reflective type.  If I can come up with anything remotely decent I will send copies to both of you.

I thought you might be interested to know that the English woman who gave me the watercolors was in the British Army during the Second World War and became an American war bride soon after. At some point during her military career she was in charge of public relations for the British Army. She had a number of individual photographs of herself with Winston Churchill, Field Marshall Montgomery, Dwight Eisenhower, John Wayne, and other notable persons of the time.

Her future husband was aboard the USS Yorktown during the Battle of the Coral Sea and went on to become a Navy commander of I believe two aircraft carriers.  I do not remember the name of the first one but the second one was the USS Valley Forge.  There was a really large photograph of the Valley Forge under his command heading out to sea with a full complement of support ships and aircraft overhead that hung in the couples living room in the McLean, Virginia. It would be a great photograph for your collection if I could track it down. 

The commander's name was Elbert Stever, who grew up in Hammondsport, NY on Keuka Lake, one of the Finger Lakes and home of Taylor Wines.  It was also the place where Curtis airplanes were built for a period of time when Stever was growing up. This was what led to his interest in naval flight he once told me. After he retired from the Navy sometime in the late 1960's he went to work for Grumman.  He died in 1990 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. 

The couple never had any children. His wife, Lilian, was an animal lover who at one point had 30 cats and 7 dogs living in the house with them. For many years she would throw a Christmas party at Bethesda Naval Hospital for the staff of the Internal Medicine department.  At that time the department was headed by John Eisold, who became one of the youngest peace time Admirals when he was appointed as Attending Physician to Congress in 1994.  Admiral Eisold told me that he made a promise to her husband that he would personally take care of Lilian for the rest of her life.  And he did.  He would leave his office in the the Capitol to drive up to Bethesda to take care of Mrs. Stever.  I know because many times I would drive her from McLean to Bethesda and wait with her there until her doctor visit was over, after which we would drive back to her home in McLean.  It was partly in appreciation for those sojourns to Bethesda that she had the two watercolors put into one frame and gave them to me. Lilian Stever died in January, 2009 and was buried next to her husband in Arlington National Cemetery.

Bob Pannier

Reply 1
Dec. 9, 2010

The information is very interesting. The reason for the two signatures is that William was ambidextrous. He could paint and write with both hands simultaneously. I have attached a photo of one of his paintings of the Olympic similar to your description and a close up of the signature to see if they match yours. This is one of our original watercolours. I can't think who the aunt may have been but will ask surviving family members of his children's generation if they know anything.

William did not sail on the Titanic as he caught Scarlet Fever and was taken off the ship just hours before it sailed. His paintings of ships were prolific and his brother sold them to passengers, often with little calendars pinned to the bottom of them. Many were also signed Will Prince as his Christian names were William Albert Edward. If ever you decide to sell your pictures, please contact me as William has a huge family and I am sure someone might be interested in buying it/them as we don't have many that are signed 'Jeneway'. Thank you for the information you have provided.

Best regards,
Barbara Foley

Barbara Foley's portrait of Olympic.

Close-up of the signature.

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