“The Sense of Touch” and A meeting with Sir Alfred Munnings.

Came across this in The Englishwoman’s Review of Social and Industrial Questions, July 15th, 1909.-1910. No pictures unfortunately …

Some Leading Women Painters and Craft-workers

Another artist whose work is not of yesterday is Mrs. Swynnerton … She revels in life, in warm flesh-tints and gorgeous draperies, as the portrait in this year’s Academy would testify. Symbolism catagorizes much of Mrs. Swynnerton’s work, notably “The Sense of Touch” in the Liverpool Gallery, and a fine picture now at the New Gallery called “St. Martin’s Summer.” Here, once again, she depicts a woman who personifies her ideal of ample and glowing womanhood, one who seems to drink the beauty of life with closed eyes-in ecstasy of happiness. Seen from a distance the broadly-painted flesh tones-and even the strongly outlined purple shadow on cheek and neck-take their right place in the scheme.

SoS.jpgThe Sense of Sight (1895) is Annie’s most reproduced and familiar art work, but was actually one of four painting illustrating the senses – the other three are untraced. Can’t help wondering which sense was left out, hearing, smell, taste or touch. It would be nice to think this article is referring to another in the series. It may be, however, that this is a simple wording error by the author, and the piece may have indeed been referring to A Sense of Sight, which hangs in Liverpool Gallery (currently, 2018, on loan to Manchester Gallery).

The description of St. Martin’s Summer is pleasing. This picture is in The National Gallery of Canada, Ottowa, along with Thou Unrelenting Past, but I haven’t found a single online image of either painting. An email to the gallery requesting access to an image remains unanswered.

Also found this brief anecdote of a meeting with Annie by Sir Alfred Munnings (1878-1959), a highly successful portrait, landscape and equestrian artist, in his autobiographical An Artist’s Life., published in 1950:

[Referring to a painting of his on display high up on the wall – ‘skied’ – at the Royal Academy in 1912:] I stood in the last room where it was skied, gazing up at it, inwardly cursing the Hanging Committee, thinking of all those hours of work in the blazing sun of the previous year … I became aware of a grey-haired lady who was speaking to me. “So you are the young man who painted this,” she said. Someone then introduced us – the lady was Mrs. Annie Swynnerton, and she told me how much she liked the picture, and that it was full of light. This was generous praise from so fine an artist. The scene – Gallery XI – comes back to me: the rather small, frail, grey woman-painter, full of enthusiasm, speaking of this passage and that in the skied picture. These are thing one recalls at times as the years pass on.

Jonathan Russell

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