Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Review: The Women Who Inspired London Art

Over Christmas I was sent some lovely books to review.  The first is The Women Who Inspired London Art, an exploration of models of the early 20th century, most notably the Avico Sisters.  As I always want to know more about artists models, I was delighted to get down to some reading...


At first glance, the title implies that we will concentrate on the Avico sisters (Gilda, Leopoldine and Marietta) a trio of models who sat for some of the most impactful art of the early twentieth century.  Marietta's lovely face can be seen in John William Godward's Contemplation (1922) on the cover of the book, Gilda sat for C. R. W. Nevinson, whilst Leopoldine (brilliant name) can be seen atop of Selfridges as 'The Queen of Time'...

Gilbert Bayes' sculpture outside Selfridges (1930)
All three sisters seem to have carved out remarkable careers, inspiring diverse artists to use their faces in very different ways.  I was reminded superficially of the Pettigrew sisters from a generation or two before, however any family that can personify the lush Victorian excesses of Godward and the stark post-War harshness of Nevinson has to be wondered at. 

However the scope of this book is far wider than just the lives of these three sisters and their contemporaries.  Peterson's view of artists models travels from Elizabeth Siddal and Fanny Eaton all the way to Daphne Charlton, who died in 1991.  Mind you, such a wide sweep does draw attention to the fact that not much changes - Charlton, like Siddal was an artist herself, but provided inspiration and support to a more famous male artist (Stanley Spencer) to whom she was romantically involved.

Portrait of Daphne Charlton (1941) Stanley Spencer
It is a magnificent book with plenty of bright and colourful illustrations.  It is written in a conversational style, easy to read, and relays the information in an enjoyable way.  As if to underline how much the book isn't only about the Avico sisters, you have to wait until Part Six on page 121 before we even reach their part in the story.  Up to that point, Peterson is setting the scene of how we now know so much about models and the women who rose from anonymity to become names we remember. In no way a dry historical account of life for the women of art, Peterson's book whisks you from place to place, meeting well-to-do Ladies and models struggling to survive.  As we move from Victorian, through the war years, to more modern times, it is sobering to see how the lot of an artist's model doesn't change, certainly in the perception of the art-viewing audience. Female artists who also model find their work overshadowed by love affairs, women who come to rely on their looks remain insecure about their diminishing resource.  All the more reason we should know and treasure these women who have inspired so much and become so familiar.

Herbert Palliser's Bacchante, modelled for by Leopoldine Avico (1929)
I love a good compendium and so was delighted to find twenty pages of short entries about each woman mentioned in the book.  With birth and death dates, it provides a wonderful starting place if you fancied researching one of the more obscure women and is a marvellous quick read to dip in and out of, in case you were wondering who had an affair with Dora Carrington or who died of tuberculosis.

Lady Ottoline Morrell (1919) Augustus John
I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful book and recommend it as a cracking good read.  Useful and attractive it will be essential to researchers, those in search of inspiration or those who love seeing photographs of the women who shaped our artistic landscape.

The Women Who Inspired London Art: The Avico Sisters and Other Models of the Early Twentieth Century by Lucy Merello Peterson is available direct from the publishers, Pen and Sword or from all good bookshops now.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Monday 24th December: All the Un-Researched Ladies...

Just to misquote Beyonce, this is a shout out to all my Un-researched Ladies.  When thinking about this year's Blogvent, I started compiling a long list of women or paintings where I didn't know much, or hadn't read anything about them.  This became quite a list, especially when involving questions like...

Who are you?
 ... and ....

Yes, I know you are Mrs Beyer, but which Mrs Beyer?  Or is it Baer?
... and ...

Oi, Waterhouse, keep proper records!
The rules of Blogvent (much like Fight Club, in a way) (actually, not at all like Fight Club) are that anything I attempt had to be done and dusted that day.  So, my research and stuff is all crammed into 24 hours.  Annie Keane was a bit of an exception as I have a bit of history with her, what with Mary Hillier and everything, which I never had got round to using, but most of the women had just cropped up in the reading that day, like Marianne Shingles.  So, I would have loved to research Miss McDowall who was the model for The Bridesmaid (1851) by John Everett Millais, but I was not getting anywhere with the name and so moved on.  Similarly, despite having a photograph by Lewis Carroll of the Rossetti model known as 'Mrs Beyer', it was hard to pin her down in census returns.  Also, as she was German, people's inability to spell her name properly could not be underestimated so was she 'Baer' or 'Bayer' possibly?  Who can tell.  Also, Lewis Carroll made some snotty remark about her being slightly older than a desirable model (so that would be anyone older than 7, eh Lewis?) so that meant the poor woman could have been anything between 20-50 and the photograph did not seem to pin down an age...

Helene Beyer (1861) Lewis Carroll
One of the questions I get asked most about Pre-Raphaelite Girl Gang is where is the Lady of Shalott.  Actually, Waterhouse is a bit of a nightmare when it come to the women.  Certainly, we know a couple of names, like actress Muriel Foster or Beatrice Flaxman, but their lives and connection to Waterhouse is a bigger job than a day...


Miss Foster as Ophelia, apparently
As we have talked about before, women's history can be very nebulous, and eminently disposable if that woman does not marry and have children.  Women like Florence Anson, who married money and position, are very well recorded indeed; women like Tryphena Foord, whose daughter burnt the papers relating to the paintings, less so.  Cyllena Wilson took off on an adventure and so she is difficult to find - we are told through family stories that she died of yellow fever in somewhere like Argentina, but there are no records to back this up.  Going back to when I first researched Fanny Cornforth, before the lunacy records were released, it was assumed Fanny had just died in 1906 when she vanished from London and there was no family to record or remember.  Had someone not added 'Schott' in brackets in the record of her name at Graylingwell Asylum, it would have remained just plain Sarah Hughes who died there and we would never have known her fate.

So many women, so little time...
 Don't get me started on models like 'Reserva', a woman who used such a posh psydonym that we might never know who she is, only that she is probably the model for the bodies on The Golden Stairs (1880), unless that is Antonia Caiva.  Unless Antonia Caiva is Reserva!  Was it her super-hero name?  It would be quite a good one if it was.  Mind you, that doesn't help me at all.  If you are going have an assumed name the least you can do is write an autobiography to let me know.

The Sleeping Model (1853) William Powell Frith
So, why is it important to know about the lives of the women who posed for paintings?  It is often argued that model's lives are inconsequential to the work, that because they didn't actually lift a finger to create the work (well, sometimes that is not exactly true, because Mary Hillier assisted in the development of the plate negatives for Julia Margaret Cameron) then all we are seeing is what the artist saw, not the person themselves.  We shouldn't get distracted by the person and their life, it has no bearing on a painting.  Whilst I would agree with that up to a point, I think that it is a rare person who doesn't think of Jane Morris and sadness in the same breath, or Elizabeth Siddal and suicide, or Fanny and sex.  Read any newspaper article that mentions them and those tropes get trotted out; read any book on Pre-Raphaelite art where those women are not the main players and those are the images you are bombarded with because of the paintings they appeared in...

Pia de' Tolomei (1868) Dante Gabriel Rossetti
How do we know that Jane Morris was unhappy in her marriage to William Morris?  For the most part, actually, we don't.  I am as guilty as anyone for thinking that she was a bit of an ungrateful cow for being miserable in her lovely house, but much of what we apply to Jane is from Rossetti's vision of her, which might all have been wishful thinking on his part.  In fact, if you think about it, it would have been deeply disturbing for Rossetti to create so many portraits of Jane's misery if it was real.  That is his own misery up there, superimposed onto the face of his best friend's wife who he was obsessed with.  Happy Christmas!

Found (1870s-80s) Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Henry Treffry Dunn
Where there is a model that there is already quite a bit said by someone (who turns out to have their own agenda, I'm looking at you William Bell Scott), or things are said in the context of a moral framework that no longer has such a grip on us, then things like the FACT that Fanny Cornforth was a prostitute is a difficult one to argue against.  No, she didn't spit shells at anyone.  No, she didn't solicit on the Strand. But yes, she did allow two men to pay all her bills.  Yes, she did cohabit with a man who was not her husband and had no problem with any of it.  By Victorian standards, that was shocking, but for us it's not, but neither is it prostitution.  However, then you have people wanting to argue with you about your obvious prejudice against sex workers.  Damn it.  Thanks William Bell Scott.  I hope your 'hyebrows' never grew back.

Joli Coeur (Ellen Smith)  (1867) Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Also, it is vital to read everything said about a woman so you can sort out the narrative you are being given.  Ellen Smith was a model for a couple of years before a man who was either her boyfriend or a neighbour attacked her.  There is absolutely a difference in what is inferred here.  The subtext often given in the story of the violent boyfriend is that Ellen's life choices had caused her own misery.  She chose a violent man to be her lover, therefore she got the inevitable beating.  Contemporary accounts of Ellen attack imply that actually the man was just a neighbour, a man in Ellen's neighbourhood who became obsessed with her and attacked her.  For some reason that account was altered to place the blame at Ellen's door, quite literally, as if her choice of man and choice of career caused her own downfall.

Princess Helen Randis Singh by Edwin  Long
 So, why do we love to read about the models and why is it important that we continue to seek them out?  Because everyone's history is interesting! Yes, sometimes it can be a little gruesome, a tad dramatic, a little bit devastating, but I love to hear about the ups and downs of the lives of others, especially if I am looking at a picture of them.  I swiftly add that I equally love to hear that a woman has had a long happy life with oodles of money and children and no terrible threshing machine accidents.  I am not a monster.  However, because mercifully our lives now are not filled with predictable infant mortality, consumption and threshing machines, it is salient to remember those who did not have our luxuries of vaccination, clean water, and health and safety practices at work.

Alexa Wilding (c.1865)
Also, everyone's history is equally as valid and important.  It is vital to hold all stories with equal care and attention and not sacrifice someone to make a point about another person.  The biography of Rossetti casts Elizabeth Siddal as victim of his libidinous ways, Jane Morris as the recipiant of his true love/obsessive weirdness and Fanny as a symptom of his folly.  By turns Rossetti is the lover, the obsessive, the idiot, all at the expense of the women, which is nonsense.  And what of Alexa Wilding, who often gets missed out entirely as she doesn't fit in to any of that narrative.  I am tired of a woman being used to expose the folly of a 'great' figure people are trying to undermine.  Julia Margaret Cameron's lavish praises of her maid Mary Hillier are another example.  Mary is normally portrayed as an idiot (yes, Virginia Woolf, I'm looking at you) for no reason at all other than to make Julia Margaret Cameron look a fool for idealising her.  That is a travesty. Worse than that, it's not true.

The Hayloft (1858) Rosa Brett

I get uncharacteristically angry about all this because I see a direct correlation between the lack of respect we give people in the past and the way we treat each other now. The lazy assertion that no woman did anything of importance in the past is both untrue and unhelpful.  Start looking and you will see that many women did many things of great importance but either were left off the credits or were not carried forward to be remembered now.  It is not only prejudice of their contemporaries that kept women from the pages of history, it is our inability to look for them and value them now.  There is absolutely no reason why an artist like Evelyn de Morgan is not as popular as Edward Burne-Jones.  There is no reason why Rosa Brett is not as valued as John Brett.  We all have a responsibility to  include the women of the past in the conversations we have now because it is only a short step from believing women never did anything of importance to believing women can never do anything as important. 

Unknown Woman (1865) Julia Margaret Cameron

So I send you all off for a happy Christmas with the final thought that out there are hundreds of women waiting to be identified and valued for their part in Pre-Raphaelite art.  Let 2019 be the year when we give them their due.  We have the marvellous exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery to look forward to, so this is the year that we start asking for, and getting, parity in history.  It's about time.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Sunday 23rd December: Marianne Shingles

Busy day today - when I was a little girl, the highlight of every Christmas was when we would drive down to my Grandma's house (in a village not far from our home) and collect our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve.  We'd set off after lunch and have tea at Gran's, then come home, the car full of pressies, the evening drawing in and people's Christmas lights all twinkly and magical.  Well, today, we will be going to our friends' houses and delivering pressies in a sort of homage to that, plus I also get to see the Christina Rossetti exhibition up at the Watts Gallery, so lots to do.  Let's crack on!

I actually changed my mind over who I was going to do today.  I was going to talk about Frederick Sandys' common law sister-in-law (sister-in-common-law?) Augusta 'Gussie' Jones, but while I was reading about her just now I read the name Marianne Shingles and that was it.  I love a jolly name, let's talk about her!

La Bell Jeune Giroflees (1869) Frederick Sandys
Whilst writing Girl Gang, I really wanted to know more about Emma Sandys.  She is such a mystery and in many ways typifies the problem of researching women.  The same is very true of John Brett's sister Rosa - if there is a talented boy in the family, we were never looking at the girl and she sort of just slips from view.  If that girl gets married that might well put pay to any ambitions they had of a career, but she stands a chance of having her memory and possessions treasured by her children until her moment can come, but if that woman died a spinster, the unpleasant fact is that they are unusual if they get preserved in a meaningful way.  Which is probably why the above image of Marianne Shingles, painted by Frederick Sandys appears in a Google search for "Marianne Shingles Sandys" before this...

La Belle Jeune Giroflees (1869) Emma Sandys
Yes, that's the same girl, the same day, the same damn everything and Marianne was primarily Emma's model.  I instantly recognised her from this...

Viola (1865-77) Emma Sandys
She has quite an aquiline nose and a stubborn little chin, bless her, plus also, of course, that hair! So by the same token, Marianne Shingles might also be...

A Pre-Raphaelite Beauty (1870s) Emma Sandys
And her...

Woman in a Yellow Dress (1870s) Emma Sandys
Possibly her...

Portrait of a Lady (1870s) Emma Sandys
...which is quite a collection of 'big hair and nice necklace' pieces from Sandys, so I definitely wanted to find more.

Frederick and Emma Sandys will get their revival, I'm sure.  I'm especially surprised that Frederick isn't better known as his work is often included in Pre-Raphaelite books and the odd exhibition and there is a smashing catalogue raisonne by Betty Elzea (which has been on my Amazon wishlist for a while now).  I own the small and perfectly formed 1974 catalogue, which is cheap online and very useful, but I think Frederick is just awaiting a retrospective.  Emma too will hopefully get her moment, although Jan Marsh and Pamela Gerrish Nunn have always been fighting her cause, which is just one of the many, many reasons we love them.  In comparison to Emma, Marianne Shingles (of the Norfolk Shingles, which is brilliant) was a piece of cake to find.

Once upon a time in Norwich there lived a man called William Lawes Shingles.  He had started his career as a servant in a pub, but after marry Mary Ann Loads in the autumn of 1851, William became a licensed victualler himself, which is a fancy way of saying he could sell alcohol, probably in a pub.  He didn't stick at that however, and by 1871 he was driving a cab, while his wife works as a domestic servant.  Mind you, they are living in quite a decent area in Grapes Hill.  It's so nice that the family that follow them in the census record are the Sandys.

Winding back to 1855, the Shingles had a daughter whom they named after her mother, Mary Ann.  The poshing-up of her name to Marianne might well reflect a rise in social class, which we will look at in a moment, but while still Mary Ann, she worked as a silk weaver.  I love to read about handcrafting in the past, and you know I love to have a go - I can spin, knit, sew, milk a cow, make bee skeps - however if I had to do it as a living it would be hideous and not fun at all.  I can't see any family trace of silk weaving before Mary Ann (before marriage her mother was a servant and a dairy maid) but it might have been in either her mother or father's families.  Norfolk, together with Coventry and the more famous Spitalfields, was a centre of weaving and so it might have just been a case of entering into available employment.  The family seem to have moved regularly - they are never in the same place between census, just in same small area, for example between Upper Giles Street and Grapes Hill.  When Mary Ann was posing for Emma Sandys, she was only in her mid to late teens, which I found surprising given how adult she looks, but then she was married at 20 and having children shortly after, so life moved quickly back then.

Isolde and the Love Potion (1871) Frederick Sandys
So if we take the possible dates for Mary Ann Shingles to be a model for the Sandys siblings as between 1869 until her first child in 1876 then that opens possibilities of both what dates certain pictures can be narrowed down to and whether Mary Ann could be the model for works such as Isolde and the Love Potion, painted in Norwich in 1871.    Mary Ann married George Lewis Warren, son of a shoemaker from Poringland, a village near Norwich.  George went into the boot making business too, but also did a bit of licensed victualling (if that is a word) and other jobs as their family grew. I did cheer when the family got their own house by the 1891 census, and George had become the foreman at a shoe factory (which shows you the progress of industry in a very obvious way). Mary Ann had moved on to worsted weaving from silk and their eldest son had become a teacher.  By the 1911 census, my favourite census, the family are running a pub, now the West End Retreat in Browne Street in Norwich.  After 36 years of marriage and five children (one of whom must have been a baby who died between census) Mary Ann (or Marianne or Mary Annie as she variously appears) would live on until 1933 when she died in the same year as her husband.  She had outlived the woman who she had modelled for by over half a century, but unlike Elizabeth Siddal or Jane Morris, Mary Ann Shingles would be as lost in time as Emma Sandys.

Day Dreaming (1870s) Emma Sandys
It is good to remember her and Emma Sandys, the artist who immortalised her face, because they both contributed to our enjoyment of art in a meaningful way and hopefully, their time in the spotlight will come.

See you tomorrow...

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Saturday 22nd December: Eugenie Sellers Strong

Today's post is brought to you courtesy of my other job.  When I am not fighting my way out of a pile of Pre-Raphaelite books I am actually wrestling with books about archaeology as I manage a small specialist library for Historic England's archaeology teams.  Recently I have been engaged in finding books about lady archaeologists of the past and found one that fitted in the middle of the Ven diagram of my work-life.  Say hello to Eugenie Sellers Strong...

Eugenie Sellers (1890) Constance Phillott
Oh for a subject who not only has a wikipedia page about her but actually a mighty fine biography which I thoroughly recommend, by Stephen L Dyson.  Miss Sellers was born in 1860, the eldest daughter of Frederick Sellers, a wine seller.  She had a fairly European schooling in both France and Spain before ending up back in Cambridge, at Girton College where she obtained her degree in the classics in 1882.  She taught for a year in St Andrews in Scotland before heading back down south to London in order to study archaeology.  Not that Eugenie Sellers Strong isn't a fascinating woman in her own right, but in regards to this post it was while in London she joined in amateur dramatics and moved into the circle of people that we're interested in...

Oscar Wilde who met her during this period called her a 'young Diana' and there was a rumour that she had to deliver her lectures from behind a screen because her beauty was so distracting.  Certainly the painters of the period thought so and there was a kind of cross-over between the classical paintings of Lord Leighton and Alma Tadema and Eugenie's studies.  For a dramatic performance such as 'The Tale of Troy', in which Lionel Tennyson played Ulysses and Eugenie was Helen, Leighton was one of the artists brought in to advise on costume (all that draping!) and scenery.  The 'tableau' (which are just poses plastiques but respectable because everyone is rich) were reported in the newspapers in glowing terms of how marvellous it all was, and as they did it in both Greek and English, the almost-nudity was intellectual.

Eugenie Sellers Strong's book plate
It was during this period that Eugenie Sellers was close friends with Jane Harrison who had taught her at Newnham College.  It is an interesting point of biography that until recently, attempts had been made to write Eugenie out of Jane Harrison's biography and vice versa, and the reason for this is probably that they had a romance that ended badly.  However, in books such as Mary Beard's The Invention of Jane Harrison and Sandra J Peacock's Jane Ellen Harrison: The Mask and the Self such nonsense is being put to one side.  It's bad enough that women are written out of history by men, we really don't need to be doing it to each other, for heaven's sake.

Anyhow, I feel a bit guilty, when faced with such an important subject to only be interested in her face, but that's me and this is why she's been included in Blogvent...

Eugenie Sellers (c.1895) William Holman Hunt
In 1888, William Holman Hunt wrote to Eugenie requesting to paint her, although it is uncertain whether she took him up on his offer at that point.  What we do know was when Holman Hunt was working on his oil paintings of The Lady of Shalott from the 1880s until his death, he was in need of a model.  As quoted on the Maas Gallery site, in 1893 he wrote to F J Shields saying he needed a woman over five feet seven and a half inches tall (which is what I am on a good day and must have been really tall at the time).  Hunt used professional models for the standing around side of business, but for faces he liked to use women of his own circle, and so Eugenie was suggested.  She had a long neck and strong features (which judging by the photograph in Dyson's book, Hunt made stronger and more dramatic) and so she appeared in both of the finished oils from this time...

It's like playing spot the difference, isn't it?

Lady of Shalott (1886-1905, as is the above) William Holman Hunt
Eugenie married Sandford Arthur Strong, fellow academic and archivist for the Duke of Devonshire, in 1897, but he died in 1904.  Eugenie continued his work in the archives until the Duke's death in 1908.  She received a CBE in the 1920s and from 1909 she was assistant director of the British School in Rome, where she lived until her death in 1943 in the Polidori Clinic (cue tenuous Rossetti link).  Another reason why she has been a bit of a difficult figure to talk about is that she was a strong supporter of Mussolini, allegedly because of his devotion to archaeology and visions of the past.  It is an unedifying fact that when it comes times to general elections and I scour the political manifestos that are thrust upon us, the party that claims to support Heritage the most are right wing because they are 'tapping into' (I'll refrain from saying 'exploiting') notions of a glorious past, a nostalgia for the lost values that they can preserve.  As Eugenie's life was her work, it is easy (if not excusable) to see how her priorities could be with any political figure who would value her work.  It's not our business to 'like' people in the past or agree with their choices, so I suggest you all buy yourself a Christmas pressie of Stephen L Dyson's book and learn more about this fascinating archaeologist/doomed Arthurian woman because, well, any excuse for a new book.

See you tomorrow...


Friday, 21 December 2018

Friday 21st December: Edith Ramage

Almost at the end of Blogvent now and for the shortest day I thought I'd bring you one of the littlest models, who will be very familiar to you...

Cherry Ripe (1879) John Everett Millais
I have quite a bit of history with this painting as it was given to me as a jigsaw one Christmas in the 1970s (hence my very nylon nightie and that wallpaper).

Yes, that's me.  The 70s shame.
It was a very dark and difficult puzzle (which I still don't have the patience to finish completely) and didn't exactly enamour me to Mr Millais.  I mean, it just so revoltingly cute.  Then, at the Millais exhibition at the Tate a decade ago, I saw it in the flesh and it was brilliant.  I was horrified to find that the most chocolate-boxy, kitsch piece of Victorian whimsy was actually breathtaking in the flesh.  So who is the cute little moppet in the mop cap?

Well, actually that is a bit of a double question.  Let's start with the easy bit - the girl in the picture above is Edith Ellen Murray Ramage, aged around four and a half years old. Her great uncle (on her mother's side) was Willam Luson Thomas, artist and editor of The Graphic.  At the fancy dress ball given by The Graphic in 1879, Little Edith, or 'Edie' as she was known, arrived dressed as Penelope Boothby and was the hit of the party.  Her great uncle, being either enormously fond of his little great-niece or a man of indisputable business acumen, asked John Everett Millais to immortalise the little poppet in her finery for ever more. Or rather The Graphic asked, with an eye to reproducing the image as an engraving in their Christmas edition, which they did and sold somewhere between 4000,000 to 600,000 issues, according to Millais' son.  He claims that, had all the orders for copies, been fulfilled, it would have shifted a million.

Penelope Boothby (1788) Joshua Reynolds
A note about Penelope Boothby - she was the daughter of Sir Brooke Boothby (1744-1824), immortalised in Joshua Reynolds' portrait, aged 4 years old, the same as Edie. If you have ever studied eighteenth century culture, you will be family with the Boothby family as being the subject of this heart-rending piece of poetry - 'The unfortunate parents ventured their all on this frail Bark. And the wreck was total.' This is from Penelope's tomb, as poor little Miss Boothby died at only 5 years old.  At a time when we were on the threshold of rejecting the notion that infant mortality was inescapable (for certain classes at least), the loss of their one, beloved child, ruined the Boothbys.

Xie Kitchin as Penelope Boothby (1875-6) Lewis Carroll
Okay, let me just get this off my chest.  What sort of parent dresses their daughter up as a girl whose unfortunate claim to fame is that she died early and emotionally desolated her parents?!  For crying out loud, I wouldn't even let Lily dress as Hedwig when we visited the Warner Bros Harry Potter tour (sorry if you haven't read the last book).  It's creepy.  Mind you, look at Xie Kitchin (who does not known how to wear a mop cap properly) who was rocking the Boothby look earlier in the decade.  Awful and weird.

A Momentary Vision that once befell Young Millais (1916) Max Beerbohm
The fact that The Graphic requested that Millais paint little Edie in her party outfit lets him off the hook on copying a Reynolds picture, although you have to wonder what young, idealistic Millais would have made of older, richer Millais and his habit of accidentally worshipping Joshua Reynolds.  Anyway, the Millais painting differed from the original by the inclusion of some cherries of the left, and the reference to the 16th century poem (which became an eighteenth century song).  The conceit is that Edie is selling cherries, although that raises some interest questions about employment practices. Anyway, the print was a sensation, so what happened to little Edie then?

In the 1881 census, Edie and her parents were living in Richmond and she had managed to survive her fifth birthday.  Her father, David, was a builder and her sisters seem to have been taught at home with a governess.  In a rather ghastly echo of the painting, Edie's sister Sheila, just 3 years younger than Edie, died in 1887.  Had it been poor Edie who perished I can imagine all sorts of articles on the curse of Penelope Boothby...

In 1896, Edie married Francisco de Paula Ossorio, a gentleman of Spain and retired to a life of respectable married life with her daughter joining the family in the winter of 1896.  Around 1900, the painting was acquired by a South Africa gold multi-millionaire art collector, Sir Joseph Robinson, who only let his close friends view his collection.  In 1910, Robinson's works went into storage and the painting slipped form the public consciousness.  That was until 1958, when the Royal Academy held a massive Millais exhibition and the painting was brought back into the light when the public asked who the little girl was...

Edith Ossorio (1858) Muriel Wheeler
The Sphere magazine (which had subsumed The Graphic) continued the story in November 1959.  Signora de Paula Ossorio had been located and invited to view her small, poppet-y self at the Millais exhibition.  She met the wife of the President of the Royal Academy, Lady Muriel Wheeler who then painted her portrait, eighty years after her first portrait, both of which hung at the Royal Academy within a year of each other.

Edith died in 1970, at the grand old age of 96.  By that time she was a widow living in Devon, and she was buried at Budleigh Salterton in November of that year.  Within a few years I received the jigsaw portrait of her, which I grant you is not a massive coincidence but tickled me.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Thursday 20th December: Tryphena Foord

Today I shall be brief and cheery for a change.  Christmas can be stressful and in the current political climate there doesn't really feel like there is much to be jolly about, however the subject of today's post should provide an antidote to any feelings of misery, if only for a moment.  I bring you Tryphena Foord...

April Love (1855-6) Arthur Hughes
Possibly the nicest couple in the Pre-Raphaelite world are Arthur and Tryphena Hughes.  They married young, remained married apparently without the need of adultery, chloral or any of the other nonsense that seems to litter the lives of others of their circles.  Arthur Hughes (1832-1915) managed to pull off the thing that many of his contemporaries failed at - he happily married his model. The most famous of his paintings features this beautiful young woman, and she can be identified in others of his sentimental pieces, so who was Tryphena Foord?

(from left) Arthur, Tryphena, Amy and Agnes Hughes (1864) Lewis Carroll
Born in the autumn of 1828 (she was baptised on 14th December), Tryphena was the daughter of Robert and Ann Foord of Maidstone in Kent.  Robert was a master plumber and decorator for Robert Cutbush.  The Cutbushs and the Foords seem to have been close as on one census a member of the Cutbush family is a lodger in the Foord house.  Robert Cutbush is also the brother of Thomas Cutbush, who owned the garden that was suggested to be the location Arthur Hughes used for his painting April Love.  It might have been his search for an ideal location that brought Arthur Hughes into contact with Tryphena, and he apparently met her in 1850, the same year as he discovered the wonders of Pre-Raphaelitism through reading The Germ.  In the 1851 census, Hughes is staying with the Foords, and their engagement is presumed to have begun.

Sketch for April Love
Much of the work on the figures for April Love was done at Hughes' studio at 6 Upper Belgrave Place, which he shared with sculptor Alexander Munro.  It is thought that Munro might have posed for the mostly hidden figure of the man, and the girl was first modelled for by a country girl who left after she didn't like the way Hughes was painting her.  Hughes finished the piece using Tryphena, and married her at the end of it.  It seems a bit of a strange subject to paint your beloved as, the young couple in the midst of their first fight, the fleetingness of love and all that, but it might not have been the first thought for the painting.  Certainly when Ford Madox Brown saw the painting, he referred to it in his diary as 'the Lovers' quarrel', but William Allingham had apparently called it 'Hide and Seek' (as referred to in a letter from Hughes to Allingham) which hints at an entirely more playful relationship between the two figures.  Whatever the thought behind the painting, it united Arthur and Tryphena for the rest of their lives.

Arthur Hughes and Agnes (1863) Lewis Carroll
There are many reasons why Arthur and Tryphena Hughes are not the best recorded of people, which I will come on to, but one person who noted the couple was Lewis Carroll.  The Hughes family grew to the tune of six children, three girls and three boys (although middle son Edwin, a twin, didn't live very long), and to their home came Lewis Carroll to photograph the children and their blissfully happy parents.  Looking through Carroll's photographs, the Hughes family are quite easy to pick out because they mainly posed against a distinctive brick wall.

Amy Hughes (1863) Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll was a visitor to the Hughes home during the 1860s and Hughes painted  The Lady with the Lilacs for Carroll.  Carroll took portraits of little Amy and Godfrey on their own, as well as family groups of Arthur with little Agnes and Tryphena with little Arthur, and Amy and Agnes (baby Emily was born in 1861, twin sister of Edwin, and Godfrey was born in 1866).

The Long Engagement (1854-9) Arthur Hughes

Tryphena is quite easy to pick out of Hughes' paintings.  He often makes the most of her copper cap of hair, which is strikingly shiny even in Carroll's black and white photograph, and so she is 'Amy' in The Long Engagement, wondering when her marriage will occur.  I have read some commentators suggesting that Arthur and Tryphena also had to wait until they could afford to marry and this painting was a memorial to that period of their lives.  

Home from Sea (1862) Arthur Hughes
Tryphena is also the mourning sister beside her weeping brother on the grave of their mother who has died while the boy was at sea.  When the painting was begun in 1857, the sole figure in the composition was the boy, but in the production of the oil, Hughes added his wife as the sister, stoically sat beside her brother, her black clothing suggesting that she had the grief and business of a parent's death to deal with alone.  Despite at this point being in her thirties and a mother, Tryphena looks little more than a child in the work.
 
A Music Party (1864) Arthur Hughes
Another of Hughes' paintings that featured Tryphena was the subject of comment from Lewis Carroll after one of his visits in 1864, as recorded in his diary - 'Called on Mr A Hughes, and saw the two pictures nearly read for the Royal Academy, one a lady playing music to her husband and children (the latter done from Totty and Agnes).'   The 'lady' was again Tryphena and 'Totty' was the nickname of the Hughes' eldest son Arthur Foord Hughes.  Looking back up at the Carroll photograph, it seems a very similar composition of Tryphena and her children, with the addition of an unknown male model.

The Rift Within the Lute (1861-2) Arthur Hughes

What is interesting when looking through Hughes' paintings of his wife are how many of them carry an overtone (or undertone) of sadness.  Other than the death of Edwin, it is hard to see that the family's life was so melancholic, but maybe that is the point.  Tryphena is often portrayed in the paintings as a woman disappointed in love, which is patently not the case but possibly if the Hughes' marriage was unhappy he would not wish to immortalise that on canvas.  Again I am struck by Rossetti's joyful celebration of Elizabeth Siddall whom he made so unhappy, so the reverse could well be true of the Hughes paintings.  After marriage, Arthur and Tryphena moved to the suburbs of London, firstly to Egham in Surrey, then Beddington near Crydon and then to Kew.  It's hardly the rock and roll centre of Bohemain life, but that was possibly what Hughes required for his art.  He also was very aware of needing to feed his family so often his work is criticised for being sentimental and commercial, especially in his later works, but again his comfortable, happy family life was reward enough for safer choices.  His sons Arthur Foord and Godfrey became artists like their father and grandfather.  Eldest daughter Amy, possibly named after the girl in The Long Engagement married John Chester, a vicar, but died at the beginning of 1915, her father dying at the end of the same year.  Agnes married an Analyst (who knew there was such a thing in 1891) called John White, but Emily remained at home living with her widowed mother until Tryphena's death in 1921.  

When my Aunt had to move from the family home she had shared with my grandparents and my uncle for most of her life to a small bungalow, she burnt a large amount of our family photographs and papers which was devastating, however they were hers to burn.  I have read so many accounts of Arthur Hughes' life which all end with the fact that when Emily had to move from the large family home in 1921, she committed an act of cultural vandalism by burning her father's sketches and many of the family papers.  I don't believe it is fair to condemn her so harshly, as in 1921 people weren't exactly knocking down her door to celebrate her father's art.  He had died 6 years before and possibly she felt that had there been a desire for the paperwork of his life, it would have been requested.  Tryphena also could have donated the papers to a relevant collection but again didn't for whatever reason.  Saying that, it is easy to argue that the lack of minutiae of an artist's life has possibly meant that Hughes is not an 'A' list Pre-Raphaelite artist, despite producing at least two of the best known and loved works associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement.  We will just then have to try harder to include Hughes and his images of Tryphena in the ever-growing conversation of Pre-Raphaelite art.

See you tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Wednesday 19th December: Alice Russell Scott

Whilst looking at the account in John Guille Millais' biography of his father of John Everett Millais painting Esther yesterday, I kept reading.  I was intrigued by the following report of Anne Thackeray's reaction to Millais' painting The Romans Leaving Britain - 'I thought of you one day last week when we took a walk with Tennyson and came to some cliffs, a sweep of sand, and the sea; and I almost expected to see poor Boadicea up on the cliff, with her passionate eyes.'  
She was talking about this...

The Romans Leaving Britain (1865) John Everett Millais

This painting was a bit of a sensation when it was exhibited.  The Christian Spectator has one of my favourite contemporary reviews because it is just so gossipy: 'There, take your time over it. Is that not a glorious woman? "Too much akin to the creature whose skin she wears?" Not a bit of it. She certainly has not had the advantage of being trained at an Establishment for Young Ladies, nor would she make a model District Visitor, nor can I fancy her filled with gushing admiration for a nice young curate; but it is refreshing to get away from the be-crinolined namby-pambyism that so many of Eve's daughters have degenerated into ... and breathe the fresh air of this Dorsetshire coast as one might have seen it a thousand years before young ladyism was invented.' My goodness me Christian Spectator, you write an interesting review.  No-one was ever in any doubt who the young lady embracing her Roman beau was.  Back to my friends at the 1865 Christian Spectator - 'It is said that a daughter of Mr Scott Russell sat to the painter: do you notice that empty oyster shell in the corner? It is a trifle but suggestive.'

Hang on there, what is meant by that?  Are we suggesting that the oyster shell is suggestive of something arousing that has been discarded, used up?  Why has the reviewer conflated this point with the identity of the sitter?  Who is besmirching the good name of Mr Scott Russell's daughter and why?

John Scott Russell
John Scott Russell (1808-1882) was a graduate of Glasgow University and had worked on naval engineering and architecture in Edinburgh before moving down to a massive house in London.  Once in London, he became the secretary of the Royal Society of Arts and joint-secretary for the Great Exhibition.  He is most famous for his work with Isumbard Kingdom Brunel on The Great Eastern.  He had married rather well, to Harrietta, the daughter of Sir Daniel Osborne, the 12th baronet of Tipperary.  The couple had one son, Norman, and three rather splendid daughters.  The eldest daughter, Louise (1841-78) was nicknamed 'Lady', their second daughter, Mary Rachel (1846-1882) was nicknamed 'Chenny' and their youngest, Alice (1847-1936, well done for getting into the twentieth century) was nicknamed 'Dickie'.  I am indebted to Michael Ainger in his dual biography of Gilbert and Sullivan for details on the sisters, and I am also grateful to Arthur Sullivan for having such naughty relations with at least one of the sisters.  Naughty Sir Arthur.  

Now, the problem I have is that neither Christian Spectator nor John Guille Millais go as far to tell me which of the Scott Russell girls is holding the handsome gent from the continent to her bosom.  So let's do a bit of digging.  One of the most fun bits of researching is ending up reading books I normally wouldn't have read in order to find out vital details.  This morning I was avidly reading George S Emmerson's 1977 biography of John Scott Russell,which isn't my normal fare but should be as it is splendid.  Likewise, despite performing in a goodly amount of G&S operettas (I particularly liked The Mikado) I hadn't read a biography of Arthur Sullivan (although I have watched 'Topsy Turvy' more times than is decent).  I now quite fancy reading the love letters between Sullivan and Rachel Scott Russell (ordered from Amazon this morning for Christmas reading).  Going back to naughty Sir Arthur, his rather reckless affair with Rachel as a pennyless aspiring composer, could be what the empty oyster shell is about, but this would be a rather nasty and judgmental thing for Millais to do, and also it presumes that Millais knew of the affair in the first place.

Actually, I have Sullivan to thank for the identity of the British woman on the cliff - in Arthur Darling, George S Emmerson's 1980 book about the Russell Scott-Sullivan romance, it is stated it was actually Alice who posed for the woman.  So who was Alice Scott Russell?


Alice was the baby of the Scott Russell family.  Born in 1847, she would have been in her late teens when she posed for the maiden on the cliffs (in Truro, rather than the often quoted Dorset or Kent in reviews).  Looking at the strong and handsome figure, it's either the skill of the artist or the young lady's astonishing beauty that brings us such a strong, serious figure of a woman.  Actually, the 1873 Athenaeum gave their own opinion on the subject thus: 'This lady who sat for the figure of the "Britoness" was, a few years ago, well known and much admired in London Society; but Mr Millais has of course exaggerated not heightened the charms of the lady, and it is hard to avoid seeing that the result is hardly a happy one.' I think the inference is that Alice had become some glorious super-savage and the reviewer had trouble with the fact that it was obviously still recognisable as Alice, but now she looked 'exaggerated'.  As it was, the reviewer was all praise for the intensity in the stare of the woman, the strength in her figure, from her brow to her feet.

In real life, Alice was not quite as dramatic as the part she played, although I still have an eye on naughty Sir Arthur (if you have seen 'Topsy Turvy' you'll understand).  Alice, as you will have seen by the dates of the sisters, was the longest lived of the girls.  At the same time as one or both of her sisters were secretly seeing Sir Arthur, she was engaged to fellow composer Frederic Clay, but that was not to last and he broke off the engagement.  She was married in 1869 at St Bartholew's church, Sydenham, to Francois Arthur Rausch. Rausch was a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin and from Rauschenberg in Switzerland.  Luckily, as we have seen from other women in Blogvent, she married before her father's money troubles (and arrest for assault) in the 1870s.  Alice and Francois had three children, Ida (1870-?), Armond (1876-1953) and Hugo (1879-1942) and it might be that the family returned to the land that bore the family name, Rauschenberg.  She died in 1936.

See you tomorrow.