Archive for February, 2012

Painting Women: Victorian Women Artists (book #122)

11 February 2012

Deborah Cherry, 1993.

I’ve had this out of the library for two years now (thank goodness for online renewal) and have thought about it a lot.

In the epilogue Cherry says “Painting Women is full of local stories, snatches of conversations, glimpse out of windows and into rooms, glances beyond the frame”.

There’s something about 19th century creative women that fascinates me, perhaps especially if their work has since been forgotten in a Joanna Russ “How to suppress women’s writing” way. All that busy-ness, the detail of producing work, selling it, networking, support groups, involvement in politics, friendships, families – unreachable now.

I particularly like domestic images – interiors, women doing things, not just being painted, family life. Daily routines, stories.

I’ve scanned some of the images I particularly like below, and talked a bit about the artists, concentrating mostly on what can be found online, as a benchmark of their forgottenness. Even just poking around online you can easily find some unpleasantness about some of them (those that haven’t just totally vanished) – scurrilousness that may be factually untrue but even if not comes across as fairly misogynist.

There are varying stories here in terms of class, nationality, artistic education, career, marriage (though I have skewed towards discussed artists who married), race, how prolific these artists were, what art-related activities they did (eg teaching) and how they were thought of at the time.

Jessica Hayllar (1860-1948)

Jessica Hayllar, Finishing Touches

No Wikipedia page, and very little about her online.

I quite like House Cleaning, wch is unusual for me because of the lack of people.

Joanna Boyce (1831-61)

Joanna Boyce, Peep-Bo



Article by Pamela Gerrish Nunn. Of her death from pueperal fever, Nunn writes “Her sense of herself as an artist was undiminished to the last: ‘She made the nurse place the glass so, that she might see herself with all the paraphernalia of a sickroom about, and so be thoroughly impressed with the aspects of an invalid in a sickroom. She was evidently thinking of turning it to account in her painting'”.

Gertrude Offord (1861-1903)

Offord, Interior of the Old School of Art

The picture below, Nameless and Friendless, Cherry says is the only image of a woman artist selling her work.

Offord, Nameless and Friendless

Daughter of a surgical instrument maker in Norwich. Already describing herself as an artist by age 19 (1881 census), when she’s living with a cousin at a pub in Fulham. Ten years later (1891 census) she’s back with her parents in Norwich and described as “Art Mistress Painting etc”. 1901 census still with parents, “Art Teacher – School”. This was the Art School in Norwich.

She was particularly known as a flower painter and wrote Flowers and berries adapted for brush work, design, and freehand drawing (1903).

May be worth reading: A happy eye: a school of art in Norwich 1845-1982 – Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton with John Stevens.

No Wikipedia page.

The Art Class.

Henrietta Ward (1832-1924)

Ward, God Save the Queen

Daughter, granddaughter, wife and mother of artists.


More detail including quotes from her memoirs here.

Mrs. E. M. Ward’s Reminiscences (1911).
Memories of Ninety Years (1924).

Chatterton, 1873. Same windows as Wallis.

Cherry says that Ward’s husband banned the children from his studio, whilst she tells anecdotes of her daughters “working beside her on the lower portions of her paintings and an account of one occasion when they rubbed out one of her paintings”.

Jane Bowkett (1837-91)

Bowkett, Preparing Tea

Bowkett, An Afternoon in the Nursery

Wife of a painter, Charles Stuart.

Very little about her online (no Wikipedia page) despite clearly prolific (as seen by image search).

In the 1861 census (age 23) she describes herself as an Artist, and is living with her parents and brothers and sisters in Poplar. Her father is an Apothecary and GP. Her 21 year-old sister Eliza is also an Artist, two of her brothers are medical students and there are another 8 younger children (total 12; there were to be 13 in all).

Some of her paintings of children are here, including a classic children-on-beach scene (someone must have done a PhD on this trope). Others here.

Colour version of “Preparing Tea”.

Thesis by Kathleen Laycock online, “Out of obscurity: the artist Jane Maria Bowkett (1837-1891)” (2006).

Laycocks writes that “By 1885, Bowkett and Stuart owned an elegant studio-house in a prime London location. An undated photograph of their studio interior reveals the trappings that were central to nineteenth-century artistic identity. Light floods in through multiple clerestory windows and through the attached glasshouse. Huge beaten platters propped upon the mantelpiece draw attention to the elegant fireplace. Above, a larger circular metal platter, surrounded by exotic looking feathers, catches the light. Pictures are displayed on easels; a stag’s head, birdcage, china cabinet, and Islamic carpets decorate the space. In the foreground, a hexagonal eastern occasional table anchors the scene.”

Laycock argues that mothers in Bowkett’s paintings are rarely fully occupied in caring for their children, with other children often shown taking on this responsibility, and often look away from their family, out towards more exciting things. She argues that Bowkett therefore celebrates women’s increasing freedoms.

Louise Jopling (1843-1933)

Jopling, Weary Waiting


See also research site (under construction).

She wrote a memoir, Twenty Years of My Life, 1867–1887 (1925).

‘I hate being a woman,’ she wrote, ‘Women never do anything.’

Cherry quotes a letter she wrote in 1873 after her first husband, from whom she’d been separated, had died: “By marrying again … I should be loading myself with extra duties, and all these duties would be as iron bars to my success. If I married a man, do you not think he would require some of my time, some of my thoughts? God knows, I have enough to think of as it is.”

Painting “Blue and White” at the Museum of London – very consumerist.

Rebecca Solomon (1832-86)

Solomon, A Young Teacher

Solomon, The Governess


See also biography here and here.

Two brothers were also artists. Worked with Millais.

Colour version of The Governess.

Anna Blunden (1829-1915)

Blunden, For Only One Short Hour

No Wikipedia page and other sites give conflicting information about her background. Her family were originally bookbinders but then started to make artificial flowers and straw hats, which sounds fairly poverty-stricken.

Colour version of “For Only One Short Hour” – the colour scheme surprised me.

In the 1851 census she’s a governess, but by 1861 she describes herself as an artist. Having married (illegally) her sister’s widower, by the 1891 census she’s solely described as a wife.

Alice Havers (1850-90)

Havers, The End of Her Journey

Havers, The Belle of the Village

No Wikipedia page and very little about her online. Her father is described on the 1851 census as a general merchant and they have three servants listed.

Belle of the Village in colour

End of Her Journey in colour.

I like this one – Rush Cutters.

This is also called Belle of the Village (1883) – not sure if it’s supposed to be a later image in a Rake’s Progress way.

Illustrations for Cape Town Dicky (1888). The pseudonymous author (Theo Gift), according to the BL, was actually Dora Havers, presumably Alice’s sister (listed on the 1851 census).

Elizabeth Armstrong Forbes (1859-1912)

Forbes, School Is Out



Discussion on Ellen and Jim.

Slideshow of her pictures (with music).

Some of her pictures of children here.

Other pictures:
Fairy Story.
A Game of Old Maid.
Girl Peeling Onions.

Need to read Cherry’s 2000 book, Beyond the Frame: Feminism and Visual Culture, Britain 1850-1900.

Also Sophia Beale, Memoirs of a Spinster Aunt (1908).