On the Royal Academy web site there is a photograph of Annie, said to have been taken in 1931, in front of a large and otherwise unknown painting. The image is also reproduced in the catalogue of an exhibition of Annie’s works held at The Alpine Club, London, 1956, where it is stated to be “a photograph in the possession of Mrs. Brownlie.”


The image is possibly a work named ‘Desire’ or ‘An Image of Desire.’ In an Express interview of 1933, Annie says it is an allegorical work based on the works of Shelley. She had the painting returned from Rome so she could finish it, intending it for submission to the Royal Academy that summer, but was too unwell, submitting three earlier paintings instead. She said, “In the winged figure, I have tried to express the desire of the moth for the star – the ‘something’  we all strive for in this life, but never attain.” (Research by Alaistair Swinnerton.)

The Shelley lines referred to might from a poem known only as ‘To …,’ written in 1821 and published in 1824 …

The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow?

… or Epipsychidion (lines 218-23), written and published in 1821 …

I sprang, as one sandalled with plumes of fire,
And towards the lodestar of my one desire,
I flitted, like a dizzy moth, whose flight
Is as a dead leaf’s in the owlet light
When it would seek in Hesper’s setting sphere
A radiant death, a fiery sepulcher,

  • Media: oil on canvas (assumed).
  • Dimensions: approx. 1.50 x 1.64 m (2.46 m²).
  • History: only known from photo taken in 1931; possibly a work known as ‘Desire’ or ‘An Image of Desire’ (information from Alisdair Swinnerton).
  • Location: unknown.


The head in the 1931 photograph resembles another painting stated on the sales website as coming from the 1934 posthumous studio sale, titled “Head of a girl“. There were two lots in the sale with this title, as well as one “Head of a girl singing.”

Head of a Woman WM

Image: Abbott & Holder.

1931 and Head side-by-side WM

  • Media: “Oil on canvas laid on board.”
  • Dimensions: “11×10 inches. Framed: 17×16.25 inches.” 254 x 279 mm (0.07 m²), unframed.
  • History: could have been painted 1931 or earlier (by association with the 1931 photograph); auctioned Christie’s, 9 Feb 1934 (posthumous studio sale), “Provenance: Annie Swynnerton Studio Sale Christie’s, 9th Feb. 1934 / Head of a girl”; sold Abbott and Holder, c. 2019. [There were four lots in the posthumous studio sale with this title, plus others which this could have been.]
  • Location: unknown.

2 thoughts on “1931 PHOTOGRAPH and THE HEAD OF A GIRL.

  1. Pingback: Alpine Club Exhibition, 1956 – new works and web site revisions – ANNIE LOUISA SWYNNERTON (1844-1933)

  2. Pingback: New Risen Hope had wings and was part of a group, evidence suggests. – ANNIE LOUISA SWYNNERTON (1844-1933)

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