This website showcases the work of ANNIE LOUISA SWYNNERTON, the late-19th and early-20th century portrait, landscape and symbolist artist, presenting all works for which images can be found from visits to galleries, private collections, auction houses and sources on the ’net.
Also included are all works known by image of her friend Susan Isabel Dacre, and in the blog posts notes on others in their artistic circles, such as Sylvia Pankhurst, Francis Dodd, Christiana Herringham, and Annie’s husband, the monumental sculptur Joseph Swynnerton.
Annie lived at a time when female artists were generally sidelined by the male-dominated art establishment. Access to art school training, gallery representation and membership of art institutions was generally denied to them. It was also a time when women were at a great disadvantage if they wished to pursue an artistic career, being expected to paint a restricted range of subjects – portraits, flora, domestic scenes – as well as not having easy access to the financial support necessary.
Annie did things differently. Her works were not only technically equal to those of her male contemporaries, but she depicted women as independent, assertive and confident individuals, at a time when they were typically portrayed as passive, idealised beauties and very much dependent on men to determine their fates or fortunes.
Unable to develop her skills in Britain’s restrictive environment, Annie and her friend, Susan Isabel Dacre, moved to the continent to access art school training in the more liberal atmosphere there. She later met and married the Manx sculptor Joseph Swynnerton, who supported her artistic ambitions, and the couple spent much of their life alternating between homes in London and Rome, as well as spending time travelling around Italy, and other parts of Europe.
(Susan Isabel Dacre was a gifted artist in her own right. Her paintings are here.)
Major London galleries consistently rejected her works for permanent display. While her technical skill was praised, her paintings just didn’t fit in with the conventional view of what female artists should be producing or how women should be depicted in art in general.
Only later in life did Annie achieve official recognition. In 1923, at the age of 76, she become the first woman to be admitted into the Royal Academy of Arts.* She had, however, long since been recognized in other countries, with works having been accepted into the permanent collections of galleries in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, France and Australia.
(*Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser were founding members in 1768, but were never fully involved in the daily affairs of the institution. Annie was the first woman admitted on equal terms with men, although having been admitted as a full member, she was almost immediately reclassified as an ‘Associate Member,’ when it was realized she was beyond the normal cut-off age for admittance of 75.)
With only a small numbers of finished paintings in public galleries, as well as the early 20th century tendency to ignore the work of female artists, interest in Annie diminished after her death and she has received little attention since.
The one sizeable collection of her paintings is at Manchester Art Gallery – sixteen works – largely thanks to generous bequests made in the ’20s and ’30s. There are twenty-one paintings in other galleries across Britain, two each in Australia and Canada, and single works in Ireland and France. (See ‘works listed by location.’)
Annie is known to have produced hundreds of paintings in her lifetime. Hundreds, mostly unfinished, were found in her studios in London and Rome after her death – most of these quickly disappeared, sometimes being sold as bundles of works at auction.
Today, aside from the forty-three works known from public galleries, a handful are known from private collections and images of sixty or so can been found in old auction catalogues, newspapers and other publications, bringing the total number of works known by image to something over one-hundred (some are only small, blurred images).
Apart from being beautiful to look at, Annie’s works hint at a rich internal dialogue. Like other experimental artists, Annie developed her own language as she progressed through her career, expressing how she saw the world, but there are too few works known to really understand what emotions and messages she was expressing.
It would be wonderful to rediscover some of Annie’s lost work … CAN YOU HELP?
If you know of any works by Annie (or her friend, Susan Isabel Dacre), or believe you may own one, or have any observations/information of relevance, do email me … firstname.lastname@example.org. My sole interest is to display the diversity of Annie’s work on this web site to help shed a little extra light on her artistic career and encourage interest in her works. All communications are treated in strictest confidence. No personal information regarding the ownership or location of privately-owned paintings is ever displayed on this web site.
- Christine Allen and Penny Morris (2018) Annie Swynnerton Painter and Pioneer. Sarsen Press.
- Susan Thompson (2018) The Life and Works of Annie Louisa Swynnerton. Manchester Art Press Limited.
- Katie Herrington and Rebecca Milner (2018) Annie Swynnerton: Painting Light and Hope. Manchester Art Gallery.
Highly recommended is a visit to Manchester Art Gallery, where works by Annie and her circle can be seen on display, and Liverpool Art Gallery which has Annie’s Sense of Sight. Note that only a small number of the paintings held by any gallery are on display at any one time and also that works may be on loan to other galleries, so contact the gallery in question before visiting to check what is on display to avoid disappointment. Both Manchester and Liverpool are world class galleries, so even if their ‘Annies’ are not on display, there are plenty of other excellent exhibits to see.
ABOUT ME: I enjoy pursuing the works of Annie and her circle out of personal interest. Curators from major galleries around the world have commented on the quality of this site, and private contactees have put on record three previously unknown works by Annie and one by her friend Susan. I hope to discover more in the future. Professionally, I’m a care worker, and outside of work my main interests are photography, walking in the mountains, traveling around Britain and occasionally cooking, all pretty much on a shoe-string!
Note that many links on this web site, such as those to auction sale pages and personal blogs, may be broken. These are deliberately left because they can be useful when researching information, using sites such as the Internet Archive Wayback Machine (www.archive.org).
Jonathan Russell. Last updated December 2021.