|The Letter (1900-1920) Annie Louisa Swynnerton|
Annie Louisa Robinson was born 26th February 1844 in a central area of Manchester. Her birth place is often given as Hulme, but within a few years her parents seemed to have moved to Chorlton-on-Medlock and then Greenheys. Her father, Francis (1815-1889) was a solicitor and the family seemed to have been Methodists, attending the non-conformist chapels in the area. It might have been in her childhood that Annie met the non-conformist minister William Gaskell, husband of the author Mrs Gaskell, who she painted in 1879.
|William Gaskell (1879)|
|The Dreamer (1887)|
According to The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928, during a period of financial difficulty, Annie started to sell her watercolours for money, but judging by the course of Annie's life over the following years, either the period was short or her painting sales were extraordinary successful. After attending the Manchester School of Art from 1871, where she won a gold prize and a scholarship for an oil and watercolour painting, she moved to Rome to study. Annie stayed in Rome with fellow Manchester artist Susan Isabel Dacre (known as Isabel) from 1874 to 1876 after which the pair moved to Paris where they studied at the Academie Julien. A portrait of Isabel dating from this time was given by the sitter to Manchester Art Gallery in 1932...
|(Susan) Isabel Dacre (1880)|
On their return from Paris, Annie and Isabel, together with other local artists formed the Society of Women Painters to provide a place and facilities for the members to work together and study from life. Apparently in those days you had to leave Manchester to see a naked man. Anyway, the Society saw it as their duty to disseminate the principles of true art among the students of the art schools. They had rooms in Barton House, Deansgate where classes were held in elementary drawing, drawing from the antique and drawing and painting from living models. Isabel Dacre was the president, Annie served as secretary, her sister Emily was treasurer and other members included E Gertrude Thomson, Eleanor S Wood, Jane Atkinson and Julia Pollitt (nee Robinson, Annie and Emily's sister). The Society held annual exhibitions which were described in the local press as 'one of the most pleasing events in the artistic year in Manchester.'
|Tryst or A Salford Lass (1880)|
|Cupid and Psyche (1890)|
One of her most famous paintings, Cupid and Psyche, was first exhibited at the Walker Gallery in 1891. It was described in the local papers as robust, showing thorough and straightforward workmanship: 'the work shows such research of plastic beauty, the drawing so firm, the head and limbs so well modelled, that they give one the idea of being the work of a sculptor.' It might be that the reviewer is hinting at the influence of her husband, but even today the unruly curve of the wings and awkward beauty of the pair still captures the imagination.
|The Glow Worm|
Annie was influenced and supported by G F Watts and Edward Burne-Jones, and she tackled figurative and allegorical subjects. I find her style clearer and less impressionistic than Watts but his influence can be clearly seen in works such as Mater Triumphalis...
|Mater Triumphalis (1892)|
|The Sense of Sight (1895)|
|Mrs Florence H Musgrave|
|New Risen Hope|
|Dame Millicent Fawcett (1930)|
|The artist at her easel|
|Annie Swynnerton's Grave, St Mary's Church, South Hayling|
'I have known love and the light of the sun.'
What more can you ask for?