Mary Florence Monkhouse and others.

Portrait of Florence Monkhouse by Francis Dodd.

Had the pleasure of visiting a relative of Mary Florence Monkhouse (1856-1946). Many thanks for permission to reproduce images here.

Florence, as she was generally known, was a key member of the Manchester art scene in the late 1800s. I learned a little of the family history and saw some of Florence’s surviving sketches.

The Monkhouses and their relations were extraordinary gifted, part of the energetic Manchester art and literary scene of the time. This is evidenced by a fascinating scroll, a birthday gift to another family member, the author Allan Monkhouse (1858-1936), which is signed by numerous writers, artists, journalists and other Manchester illumini of the day. Amongst the many names are:

  • Neville Cardus – literary commentator on cricket and music, and of special interest to me because my father was named after him!
  • H. M. ThomlinsonManchester Guardian journalist and author of The Sea and the Jungle, a book I happened to read many years ago and much enjoyed.
  • Francis Dodd – lifelong friend of Isabel Dacre and a fine artist in himself. Portraits of Allan Monkhouse and Florence Monkhouse by Dodd hang in the home.
  • Susan Isabel Dacre, Jessie Pollitt, Mary Louisa Breakell, Margaret G. Wroe and others associated with the Manchester Society of Women Painters. (A meeting at the Manchester Literary Club in 1876 included an exhibition of works by ‘Miss Mary Breakall, Miss S. Isabel Dacre, Miss Florence Monkhouse, Mrs. Wroe‘ and others.)
Portrait of Mrs Amy Brooke, née Bulley. Image:

I’m only aware of a single work in a public collection by Florence Monkhouse, her Portrait of Agnes Amy Brooke (another champion of women’s rights) at Newnham College, Cambridge.

Like so many women artists of the period, Florence’s works have all but vanished, in spite of her having being a regular exhibitor in her own day. In The Magazine of Art commentary on the Manchester Academy exhibition of 1887, Isabel and Florence are the only female artists mentioned by name, Florence for “two simple figure-subjects, remarkable for their interesting treatment.”

‘A Manchester Playground’
A watercolour.

An aside: It is likely my father was named after Neville Cardus, one of the names on the birthday list mentioned above (the evidence being my grandfather’s name written in a book by Cardus dated the year of my father’s birth). My family recently discovered a piece commercial artwork dating from the late 1930s by my father – an apprentice graphic and occasional fine artist, until the war changed his and everyone else’s plans. Very little of his work survives. I’ll take the liberty of posting the piece here.

Birlec Ltd, or the Birmingham Electric Furnace Company, was founded in 1927 and continued in existence on paper until recently, although in reality it had long since been subsumed into multinational concerns.

Jonathan Russell

4 thoughts on “Mary Florence Monkhouse and others.

  1. Grant Waters

    Hello Jonathan,

    Thank you for your latest post. Most interesting!

    I have now checked a copy of the Royal Academy Illustrated for 1924. ALS exhibited two paintings that year, namely ‘New-Risen Hope’ (exh 256) and ‘Sibyl guarding the secret of the tomb’ (exhibit 465). Only one work is illustrated, the Chantrey Bequest purchase of ‘New-Risen Hope’ for which you already have an image. I have pasted your entry for that painting below and wonder whether you may wish to add the details of its exhibition at the RA in 1924?

    * NEW-RISEN HOPE (TATE) hope-tate-canvas-T * Media: oil on canvas. * Dimensions: 519 x 570 mm (0.30 m²). * History: signed and dated 1904; presented to the Tate by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest, 1924; exhibited Manchester Art Gallery, 23 Feb 2018 to 6 Jan 2019. * Location: Tate .

    Keep up the good work!

    Best wishes,

    Grant Waters


  2. Pingback: Women at the Royal Academy / Rhoda Holmes Nicholls / and … – ANNIE LOUISA SWYNNERTON (1844-1933),

  3. T... F...

    Hi Jonathan, Thank you for the interesting article. I just wanted to let you know that I bought a Mary Florence Monkhouse watercolour at an auction in Wincham, Cheshire around 1996. It’s in the style of Monet and has been hanging on our walls ever since, We love it. My wife informs me that an Aunt of hers donated a Monkhouse watercolour the Manchester Art Gallery in the early/mid 1900s so it might still exist somewhere in their collection.


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