Born in Woodford Green, London, Katharine Emma Sapsworth was the daughter of George Sapsworth, a wealthy leather merchant. She attended the Slade School of Art in London from 1896-97 where she studied sculpture under Sir George Frampton, RA and then continued studies in Paris and Italy. In 1901 she married childhood friend John Maltwood, who had become a successful advertising manager for OXO Ltd. His financial standing facilitated Katharine’s artistic career as well as her scholarly pursuits and allowed them to travel the world, especially after John’s retirement in 1921. In addition to travels in Europe, they went to Egypt, the Middle East, India, China, Korea, Japan, the U.S., Canada and South America and amassed an extensive collection of art and antiques along the way.
From 1910 to 1930, Katharine exhibited regularly at London’s Royal Academy, the London Salon, and many other galleries as well as the 1924 Paris International Olympic Exhibition. A 1927 exhibition at her Kensington studio, featured sixteen works including Magna Mater (1910), Head of Canada (1912), Mills of God (1919), Priest of Buddha (1920), The Holy Grail (1922), and Aspiration (1924).
The Maltwoods immigrated to Victoria, Canada in 1938, and in 1944 they purchased “The Thatch,” a Tudor Revival style cottage. They envisioned this as a place to display their art collection and where Katharine could continue her work on her 1925 discovery of the Glastonbury Zodiac a giant series of earthworks in the Somerset landscape. Her time in Victoria was also spent as patron to local artists including Emily Carr, W.P. Weston, Stella Langdale, Ina Uhthoff and C. J. Collings.
Katharine Maltwood was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1940, for her artistic and scholarly contributions. She died in Victoria in 1961, and the Maltwood’s home and art collection was bequeathed to the University of Victoria in 1964 just prior to the death of John three years later. In Katharine’s words their gift was intended, for “the encouragement of the study of the arts” and “to continue the ideals of spiritual evolution and higher hidden realities.” 1 The Maltwood Museum of Historic Art moved to campus in 1972 and was renamed the Maltwood Art Museum and Gallery. Their extensive papers were transferred to UVic’s Special Collections. With the recent move of the main gallery to downtown Victoria in 2011, the Legacy Maltwood Gallery at the Mearns Centre for Learning – McPherson Library reopened as the primary campus gallery space.