Dacre’s ‘Portrait of Lydia Becker’ dated to 1885 / Biographical snippets

S. ISABEL 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 and if applied impasto, can take many 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 alter their work before the paint becomes permanently fixed. 1885 is therefore a strong candidate for the completion of this painting.

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.

This all assumes the The Manchester Weekly Times article is referring to the same painting as that now held by Manchester Art Gallery. I tend to look for 100% certainty in such matters, which there rarely is, but I’m confident it is this 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.

UPDATE, March 2022: I’ve found this too time consuming with other responsibilities I currently have. A project for the future, perhaps

UPDATE October 2022: ‘Biographical snippets’ now well under way. See link on top menu bar.

Jonathan Russell

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