SUSAN DACRE’S Portrait of Lydia Becker, previously dated c.1885-c.1890, can arguably be dated to 1885, having being exhibited at the Manchester Academy in February 1886 (The Manchester Weekly Times, 27 Feb 1886). Presumably this was the first showing after completion date for what is a very fine work.
Oil paints, especially dark colours, takes weeks or even months to ‘dry,’ after which a varnish is often applied which also has to be left some time. Technically oil paints do not ‘dry,’ they oxidise and harden, allowing artists to finely hone their works before the image became fixed. Hence 1885 being a likely date for the completion of this painting.
This all assumes the newspaper is referring to the same painting now held by Manchester Art Gallery. The article gives the work great praise, commenting on the delicate tones and ’emotion’ of the picture, not just a technically good but otherwise uninvolving painting. Having a science background, I tend to look for 100% certainty in such matters, which there rarely is, but in the context I’m happy it is the same work.
I’M WORKING ON reintroducing the ‘Biographical snippets’ section to this web site – contemporeanous accounts of Annie and her circle from newspapers of the day, their personal writings and other sources. A link will eventually appear on the top bar.
It’s a slow task and I won’t make any more announcements about it, but any significant findings, e.g. the dating evidence above, will appear as blog posts, so there may well be a little flurry of them over the coming weeks.