This website showcases the work of ANNIE LOUISA SWYNNERTON (née Robinson), 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 internet.
Annie lived at a time when female artists were generally ignored 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 dis-advantage 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 broke the mold. Her works were not only technically equal to those of her male contemporaries, but she depicted women as independent, self-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 close friend, 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.
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 generally.
Only later in life did Annie achieve official recognition. In 1923, at the age of aged 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 even Australia.
With only a small numbers of finished paintings in public galleries, interest in Annie’s works diminished after her death and she has received very little academic attention since. The one sizeable collection of her paintings is at Manchester Art Gallery – sixteen works – largely thanks to generous bequests made in the 1920s and ’30s.
Annie is known to have produced hundreds of paintings in her lifetime. Almost three-hundred works, mostly unfinished, were found in her studio after her death, and literary references comment on her total devotion to her work and also that she produced many portraits as a way to boost the household income. Today, only forty-two works by Annie exist in public collections – thirty-seven in the UK and five overseas. A small number are also known from private collections.
Images of a further fifty or so can been found in old auction catalogues, newspapers and other publications, bringing the total number of works by Annie for which there are images to about one-hundred, although many of the older images are of poor quality and are black-and-white.
It would be wonderful to rediscover some of Annie’s lost work … CAN YOU HELP?
If you know of any works by Annie, or believe you may own one, please contact me … firstname.lastname@example.org … ideally with an image of the work included. My sole interest is to display the diversity of Annie’s work on this website to help shed a little extra light on her artistic career and encourage academic study.
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.
No personal information regarding the ownership or location of paintings will be displayed. This site is strictly non-commercial, and any advertisements that appear are placed by the web hosting service over which I have no control and receive no income from.
ABOUT ME: I’m an artist, photographer, traveller and occasional long-distance walker. Professionally I’m a care giver for older people, with a special interest in supporting people who have cognitive impairment and other complex heath needs.
Jonathan Russell, March 2019.
* Two women, Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser, were founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768, but were never fully involved in the daily affairs of the institution. 155 years later, Annie became the first woman to be admitted on equal terms to the male members.