Deaf artist, Rupert Arthur Dent, and Jane Besemeres
By H Dominic W Stiles, on 7 June 2013
Rupert Arthur Dent (1853-1910) was born in Wolverhampton in 1853, son of a Stafford solicitor, William Dent, and his wife Jane. In 1861 the family included nine children who had a governess, Miss Jane Besemeres. Rupert Dent was deaf from birth, and his obituary (British Deaf Times 1910 Vol.7 p.57-9) tells us that one of his father’s sister’s was also deaf and very artistic. As early as eight years old he showed artistic talent, observing and drawing animals. Perhaps the governess was just for the daughters or the younger children as we are told that Arthur was educated at the Old Trafford (Manchester) Institution under Alexander Patterson, then Wolverhampton School of Art. Aged 23 he became a Royal Academy student and began exhibiting. The Royal Academy was not appreciative of animal paintings but his artistic treatment and naturalism was recognised as having great merit.
Fond of history and interested in antiquities, Dent was also philanthropic, holding a Sunday afternoon class for Deaf people in Wolverhampton. His forte was clearly his dog painting, but he also painted miniatures – see below – and landscapes.
In February 2012 one of his paintings was sold for $4,750 in New York.
Jane Besemeres (1827-1905) was born on London. She remained a family friend of the Dents after she left her post as governess (she was a visitor there according to the 1871 census return), and went on to be both a teacher, author and found the Staffordshire Mission to the Deaf (1886). It may well be that working with Rupert Dent inspired her interest in Deaf education and mission work. Our Monthly Friend for January 1906 suggests that it was teaching ‘a Deaf boy’ that taught her about “the nature of the Deaf and their peculiar needs”, and we might speculate that the boy was Rupert. She started a small school for Deaf children, recruited the Deaf missioner Agar Russell (himself a fascinating character). She founded a ‘Home for Deaf and dumb Girls’ in 1902 at 80 Compton Road. The Dent family were represented at the funeral and donated £5 to a memorial fund.