Annie Louisa Swynnerton (1844-1933)

Artist Name Annie Louisa Swynnerton (1844-1933)
Title Portrait of Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett
Description This superb British late 19th century portrait oil painting is by noted and well exhibited Victorian born female artist Annie Louisa Swynnerton. The portrait is of Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929). A statue commemorating the life of the suffragist, Millicent Fawcett, was unveiled opposite Parliament in London, March 2021. She campaigned for women's right to vote during the early 20th Century and is seen as one of the most influential feminists of the past 100 years. The bronze casting, by the artist Gillian Wearing, is the first statue of a woman erected in Parliament Square. Swynnerton's portrait of Fawcett demonstrates her connection to key figures in the Women's Movement. In this painting Fawcett wears the robes of the University of St Andrews, the institution that awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in Law (LLD) for services to education in 1899. It is likely this painting was to commemorate this occasion. There is a another similar version of this painting in the book on Annie Swynnerton as noted in the provenance below which is owned by the Tate Gallery. Swynnerton's faithfulness to her middle aged sitter's appearance is demonstrated here, as she clearly shows the well earned lines on Fawcett's face. It is a superb portrait by a Victorian female artist of one of the most influential feminists in Great Britain's history. 
Provenance Christie's Posthumous studio sale catalogue, No. 82 February 9th 1934. 'Portrait of Dame Millicent Fawcett, in academical gown, 29in. by 24 in'. 
Christie's sale stamp verso. 
Medium Oil on Canvas
Size 24 x 29 inches
Frame Housed in a complementary Victorian Watts gilt frame, 36 inches by 31 inches and in good condition.
Condition Good condition.
Biography Annie Swynnerton (1844-1933). Swynnerton's obituary stated that 'vitality' was the word which best summed up her work. In her depictions of children, especially those painted in the open air, she could most easily express her 'youngness of heart, joy in life, and reckless abandonment to the appeal of light and colour.'Swynnerton was born in Kersal, near Manchester, one of seven daughters of Francis Robinson, a solicitor. From an early age she painted watercolours to supplement the family's reduced income, but began  her serious training as an artist at Manchester School of Art, before leaving to enrol at the Académie Julian in Paris. Her work was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1879, and the following year she exhibited a portrait of her friend Isabel Dacre (Manchester City Art Gallery), with whom she later formed the Manchester Society of Women Painters. Swynnerton completed her studies by travelling for two years in Italy. During a stay in Rome she met the Manx sculptor Joseph Swynnerton, whom she married in 1883; until his death in 1910, they lived mainly in Rome. Whilst in Italy, Swynnerton painted works such as An Italian Mother and Child (Manchseter City Art Gallery) in a style clearly reminiscent of Renaissance painting, and panoramic landscapes such as The Olive Gatherers (Manchester City Art Gallery). In 1902, after a gap of sixteen years, Swynnerton exhibited again at the Royal Academy. Always greatly admired by other painters, her work was bought by prominent figures in the art world. In 1906 Sir George Clausen purchased New-Risen Hope, depicting the figure of a naked child, and later presented it to the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. John Singer Sargent bought The Oreads in 1907, a sculpturesque group of sea-nymphs, giving the painting to the Tate Gallery, London, in 1922. In addition to her allegorical paintings, Swynnerton exhibited many portraits at the Academy in the 1910s. In 1922, backed by Clausen and Sargent, Swynnerton was the first woman to be elected an Associate of the Royal Academy. The only previous women to rank as Academicians were Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser, who were signatories to the Instrument of Foundation in 1768 and thus were made members without being elected. The year after her election there was an exhibition of her work at Manchester City Art Gallery and another version of New-Risen Hope was purchased for the Chantrey Bequest in 1924. In 1929 and 1930 two more works were purchased for the nation this way. Swynnerton's sight began to deteriorate towards the end of her life, but she continued to exhibit pictures at the Academy, although they were often works she had painted years earlier. She died at the age of eighty-eight at her home on Hayling Island, near Portsmouth.

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