The Letter = The Reading Girl of 1883? / 1850s-70s biographical snippets complete / Another Cupid and Psyche

THE LETTER, owned by the Royal Academy, is very loosely dated by them to “?1900-1920”. It is signed with a monogram, ALR, which is known only from two other works, the portraits of William Gaskell (1879) and Florence H. Musgrave (1883). I had therefore tentatively dated The Letter to “possibly c. 1881.”

I’ve just noticed newspaper comments referring to an untraced work, The Reading Girl, which Annie sent from Rome in 1883 to the Manchester Society of Women Painters for the annual exhibition. If these works are indeed one in the same, then that dates the work to that year, or a little earlier, allowing time for the paint and varnish to have fixed well before shipment.

Sadly the newspaper articles lack description, simply referring to “some charming work” in the details of the painting, so not possible to say this with certainty. Annie was a prolific artist, so there may well have been more than one ‘reading girl.’

THE BIOGRAPHICAL SNIPPETS sections for 1850s-1870s is complete. A surprisingly slow business going though the old cuttings (PDFs, web links and other notes collected over time), but it’s coming along.

IN THE POSTHUMOUS STUDIO SALE CATALOGUE of 1934, lot 67 is ‘Cupid and Psyche‘, a 1 x 1.6 m work. It is now untraced, and not to be confused with the Cupid and Psyche of Oldham Art Gallery which was acquired by that institution in 1892, although interestingly the dimensions are similar.

The Manchester Courier of 2 November, 1877, comments on a piece by Annie on display at the Manchester Academy that year called Amor and Psyche

… an ambitious work … Whilst we commend the artist for her desire to realise something in the higher walks of art, we cannot but regret that she should have attempted so difficult a subject as Cupid and Psyche …

The Oldham Gallery Cupid and Psyche.

Annie’s 1890 work was received in similar vein, but thankfully appreciated by Charles Edward Lees and bought as a gift for Oldham Gallery. So maybe this Amor and Psyche and the studio sale item were one in the same, or it was a lost prototype for the Oldham work, or something different altogether. The lack of a detailed description in the newspaper article means nothing can be said with any certainty.

Jonathan Russell

RIP Her Majesty

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