THANK YOU to those who responded to my appeal to help pay the annual web hosting fees for this site. While I persue the subject of Annie Swynnerton and her circle out of personal interest, I love being able to share my findings, including the contributions of others on the subject.
MY INTEREST in Annie’s friend, Susan Isabel Dacre (commenly known as ‘Isabel’), continues, especially as in their early days Isabel was the more recognised artist of the two, winning awards and being exhibited in London and Manchester regularly.
Recently came across an article about a large exhibition Isabel and her friend, the artist Francis Dodd, held together in Manchester in 1913.
The article is in the typically verbose language of the period, but I think still captures my personal feelings about art in general – that the skill is capturing the emotion of a scene or subject, or at least the artist’s perception of it, not simply about technical proficiency, though that is important as well.
Isabel, thirty years his senior, shared a studio with Dodd in Manchester when he moved there, where he had family connections, in 1895. They remained friends until her death in 1933, with Dodd producing many drawings, etchings and paintings of ‘Aunt Suzie.’ They are also recorded as having exhibited together London in 1908, and presumably did so on other occasions.
The Manchester Guardian, 28 March, 1913.
Miss S. Isabel Dacre’s Italian landscapes, which form the larger part of an exhibition that opens to-day at Mr. Charles Jackson’s gallery in Police Street, Manchester, have a distinguished place of their own in contemporary English painting. Unambitious in size and without the faintest parade of manner, they present Italian scenery to an English spectator with a charm which no other living British artist’s work quite possesses; for, grateful as this task of translation is, success in it is denied to all but those of happily constituted temperament. It is so easy to see foreign landscape with just the tourist’s eyes, noting only what is strange and picturesque in buildings, in trees, or in geographical formation, and regarding the people who move among its scenes merely as “foreigners” or “natives,” odd and striking in manner and costume.
Miss Dacre’s pictures preserve admirably this delicate balance of qualities. They have, pictorially speaking, a sort of perfection of good manners, whose composure no outward splendour of scenery avails to disturb. Individual preferences show in a choice of times when warmth of colour rather than brilliance of light controls the landscape and in the selection of wide scenes of hill country rather than those views of city streets which typically Italv to many painters. The success of her larger canvases, such as that of “Collepardo,” with its panorama of hill beyond hill and the city in the near distance, or “…,” [text unclear] in which the town is piles on its hillside with the great church crowning it shows the skill with which the artist can handle a complicated subject; while a large number of lesser pictures give more momentary impressions, full of the charm of the original scene. Of these it must be enough to mention Nos. 23, 26, 28, 32, 35, 43 and 46.
Water-colours by Mr. Francis Dodd, with some Chinese pottery and bronzes, make up the rest of the exhibition. The collection of water-colours represents the artist’s range very well. He has grasped the fact that the emotion in a coloured picture of landscape is dependent on the state of the sky. His skies are full of character and no two are alike, and the landscape beneath responds in its sentiment to each piece. Landscape so handled ceases to be a mere record of facts and becomes, as it should be, something subjective – an expression of the artist’s own moods. Another marked characteristic is the artist’s use of figures to emphasise the dominant note of each piece.
“Soho Square” expresses the purest pleasure in a moment’s beauty of effect; “Haverstock Hill,” “The Paragon,” “Ruins in the Campagna,” and the “View from Judge’s Walk” are others in which nature’s mood and the painter’s are thoroughly in accord. A portrait in oils which is also shown seems to us one of those pictures which future generations must value both for the technical refinements of its colour, its modelling and contours, and on account of what may be called its spiritual quality. Three of the water-colours, one is glad to learn, are already the property of the Manchester Art Gallery Committee – one of a Manchester subject, the other two pictures of Grenwich [spelling as in article] (13, 14), which are of the artist’s best.