In the centenary year of women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom, Sarah Reynolds, Victorian art specialist at Christie’s in London, spotlights the key artists of the period who forged successful careers in a male-dominated world
‘When one thinks of Victorian artists, it is generally the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and various Royal Academicians, who spring to mind,’ says Sarah Reynolds, Victorian Art specialist at Christie’s in London. ‘While images of women predominate their canvases, what is less known is that there was a group of highly-talented female artists working alongside them and sharing ideas.’
Traditionally these women have been viewed in relation to their male counterparts, implicitly seen as inferior to their famous husbands, fathers and brothers. But in recent years, they have begun to be recognised as talented pioneers in their own right. Here, we take a look at a few of the women whose work made waves in the Victorian era.
Marie Spartali Stillman (1844-1927)
Marie Spartali Stillman was born into a family of wealthy Greek expatriates whose circle of friends included several important patrons of the Pre-Raphaelites. Growing up in an artistic household, the young Marie showed an early talent for drawing and painting. In 1864 she became a pupil of Ford Madox Brown, one of the principal associates of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, whose influence can be seen in her work from this period.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), Head study of Marie Spartali Stillman (1844-1927) for ‘Dantes Dream’. 14¼ x 11⅝ in (36.2 by 29.5 cm) (folded); 21 ½ x 24 in (54 x 61 cm) (overall sheet size). Estimate £200,000-300,000. This lot is offered in Victorian Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art on 11 July 2018 at Christie’s in London
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882), Head study of Marie Spartali Stillman (1844-1927) for ‘Dante's Dream’. 14¼ x 11⅝ in (36.2 by 29.5 cm) (folded); 21 ½ x 24 in (54 x 61 cm) (overall sheet size). Estimate: £200,000-300,000. This lot is offered in Victorian Pre-Raphaelite & British Impressionist Art on 11 July 2018 at Christie’s in London
Marie and her sister Christine were introduced to the wider Pre-Raphaelite circle at a garden party in the late 1860s, where Thomas Armstrong recalled ‘every one of us burned with a desire to paint them’, and the poet Algernon Swinburne thought that she was ‘so beautiful I feel as if I could sit down and cry’.
Marie first sat for Rossetti in 1869 for the series of studies from which the work above is taken, and would go on to feature in several of his compositions — including some alongside his mistress, Jane Morris. ‘I find her head about the most difficult I ever drew,’ Rossetti wrote of Stillman. ‘It depends not nearly so much on real form as on subtle charm of life which one cannot re-create.’ A related portrait head of Marie Stillman, dated 1870, is in the Lloyd Webber collection………………