Isabel Steinthal

Isabel Steinthal (1911-1998) came from a family of four painters: her father, her mother, her sister and herself. The Steinthal family was German-Jewish. They came from Germany to Manchester in 1809. There they set up a branch of the family’s textile-trading business, Steinthal & Co Ltd. It traded mainly in cotton and flourished for more than a century.

Isabel Steinthal’s original subjects were fantasy scenes populated by mysterious dancing figures, and also Welsh landscapes. Towards the end of her life she turned to abstraction. No doubt this change was partly simply a response to modernism in the visual arts, though her reaction would certainly not have been to follow any fashion, but to choose ways of expression which helped her in what she set out to say through her work. These late paintings, some water-colour, some oils, some work in textiles such as rugs, were based on elaborate theories to do with pattern. The search for meaning in pattern became something of an obsession, as she sensed that in understanding pattern lay the key to understanding human life itself. She had a very strong conviction that true pattern-making had lost its way during the second half of the nineteenth century.


Dick Chapman Cousin of Isabel Steinthal Cambridge, July 2007