Posts Tagged ‘John Singer Sargeant’

Annie Louise Swynnerton -Sense of Sight 1895At this last gallery talk at the West End Gallery, I was asked about what I thought my lasting legacy would be, the questioner commenting that they thought my work would continue to live on.  Although I was flattered by the thought, I quickly downplayed the idea of such a thing, saying that an artist has little, if any control, over how their work will be perceived in the future.  I said that I have seen so much incredible work over the years from long dead artists whose name or body of work has little or no recognition today.  They may have had acclaim in their time or locality but didn’t have the legs to make it through time intact.

Annie Louise Swynnerton -Joan of ArcComing home after that, it didn’t take long to make a quick search and find an artist whose work I felt was powerful and compelling but had little in the way of modern acclaim.  Her name was Annie Louise Swynnerton who was born in Manchester, England in 1844 and died in 1933.  She lived much of her adult life in Italy married to sculptor Joseph Swynnerton and  prospering as a renowned painter during the Victorian era, not a small feat for a female in that time.  Her work was collected widely ( John Singer Sargeant purchased her painting The Oreads, which is now in the Tate) and in 1922  she became the first female associate of the British Royal Academy since the 18th century.  Altogether, a large career for the time, especially  for a  feminist and suffragette.

Annie Louise Swynnerton -The LetterMaybe Annie Louise Swynnerton doesn’t belong completely in the category of the unknowns, given her presence in a number of museum collections.  But perhaps she aspired for more, maybe even deserved more with her obvious talents.  What keeps the name of one artist on the minds and lips of newer generations of viewers while some equally talented artists fade from sight?

It’s something that the artist can’t control or fully manage.  I know that the only control I have over the future is to maintain a sense of continuity and consistency in my work, giving future generations a coherent body of work to which my name might be attached.





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This is  a very famous photo by Edward Weston of a nautilus shell that is considered one of the jumping off points for the Modernist movement in art back in the first quarter of the 20th century and one of the great photos of all time, selling a few years back at auction for over a million dollars.  It’s a beautiful and simple image that transcends itself.  I came across it recently along with a mention as to how it came about  when  Weston, on a trip to California,  encountered a painter whose work, particularly in some close up pieces of shell, greatly stimulated him.  Her name was Henrietta Shore.

It was not a name I had encountered  and doing a quick Google search came across a number of striking images that reminded me of Georgia O’Keeffe.   It turns out that she was a contemporary of O’Keeffe and  it was said that Shore’s work had eclipsed O’Keeffe’s when they were exhibited together, something which happened a few times.  Shore also had an incredible painting pedigree, training with the likes of William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri and even John Singer Sargeant.  She had lived in London and New York before moving to California, settling in Carmel around 1930.  Once there, she didn’t show her work much outside of the Carmel/Monterey region  and never really gained the notoriety that came to O’Keeffe.  It was another one of those cases where I have come across amazing talents who have fallen off the wider map for some reason that remains a mystery to me.

There is great sensuality in her work, for instance the human-like twist and feel of her Cypress trees, that I found really appealing, something I try to work into my own paintings.  Looking at Weston’s body of work, I can see the similarity in how he portrayed many of his subjects, finding wonderful beauty in simple twists and curves.

I also liked that she stopped dating her paintings because she  didn’t want them categorized into time frames in her career because she viewed her work and her life as being part of a continuum  that transcended time.  Again, something I hope for in my own work.  How had Henrietta Shore escaped my notice for all these many years?

There’s not a lot of data out there about Shore, at least with a quick search.  She didn’t have a long list of exhibitions after the 30’s and those that she did have were in the Monterey area, so became a sort of regional painter which doesn’t take anything away from her great talent.  It only deprives the rest of us from finding her and finding something for ourselves in her work.  Thankfully, modern technology and the web allows us to stumble across such a wonderful painter long after she has faded from the national stage, even though her work will always live on in the continuum.  Just plain good stuff…


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