Annie’s London studio / Dictionary of National Biography entry.

ANNIE’S STUDIO ADDRESS IN LONDON for a long time was given as ‘1A The Avenue, 76 Fulham Road.’ This, I have learned from the Victorian Artists at Home web site (a project of Amory University, Georgia, US), was a purpose-built set of studios with a number of artists using them, including John Singer Sargent and Elizabeth Southerden Thompson, the latter famous for her military works. Annie held other London addresses at times, although it is not a subject I’ve researched in detail, wishing to focus on her artistic works.

I’ve copied the Amory University item below without alteration (apart from minor formatting), as it is several years old and it would be a shame to lose the information should the site be deleted. The article focusses on Joseph Edgar Boehm who was, like Annie’s husband, a monumental sculptur.

The Avenue

North view of The Avenue, 76 Fulham Road, South Kensington. Developed by Charles Freake from 1869 onwards.

The sculpture studio of Joseph Edgar Boehm was located on Sydney Close, 76 Fulham Road, South Kensington. It was one of the twenty assorted studios known collectively as “The Avenue”; Boehm’s illustrious neighbors there included Sir Edward John Poynter R.A., Sir Alfred Gilbert R.A., Elizabeth Thompson, Charles Edward Hallé, and John Singer Sargent R.A. The Avenue had been constructed by Boehm’s friend, the architect and builder Sir Charles James Freake (1814-1884), “credited with the first purpose-built, flatted studios,” for the sculptor Carlo Marochetti (1805–1867). Previously, Freake had built three-story houses for artists in Cromwell Place, but recognizing the promising market for “nonresidential studios for journeyman artists,” decided to convert his estate workshops into simple studios for artists and sculptors. [1] Upon Marochetti’s death in 1867, the gigantic studio and foundry that made up The Avenue was subdivided by Freake, and Boehm, who had previously had a studio at 13 Sumner Place, was one of the first three artists to occupy one of the units. His studio actually comprised five rooms, one of them dedicated exclusively to royal commissions. [2]

While Boehm worked at 76 Fulham Road, he lived with his wife Frances (Fanny) Louisa Boteler (1837–1890) and their four children first at 34 Euston Square and later (from 1873) at 25 Wetherby Gardens, Kensington. In addition, the Boehms owned a country retreat, a three-story, five-bedroom house called Bent’s Brook in Holmwood, Surrey, an easy journey by train from London Victoria. Designed by the architect Robert W. Edis, the red brick house was crowned with a white wooden cupola and adorned with terracotta panels designed by Boehm himself. [3]

On December 12, 1890, just four months after the death of his wife, Boehm died suddenly at The Avenue. A Pall Mall Gazette article published on December 26 described the studio as “quaint and picturesque . . . behind the door on which a very old and weather-beaten little signboard told that this was the ‘workshop’ of Mr. Boehm.” [4] Before Boehm’s funeral in St. Paul’s Cathedral, attended by members of the Royal Academy and the royal family (including the queen), his coffin was placed “in the room where he died in his studio, surrounded by many examples of his art.” [5] Afterward, amid rumors of his affair with Princess Louise, who was with Boehm when he died, nearly all his personal papers were destroyed.

Avenus Studios (formerly The Avenue), Chelsea, London.

The studios in Sydney Close, behind the shops on Fulham Road, continued to be used for their original purpose into the 1980s, when they began to be too valuable for working artists to afford. A 1981 article in the Connoisseur accurately predicted that the unique “home and working environment . . . within a sympathetic community” would not survive much longer and, indeed, though Avenue Studios still stands, the studios themselves have largely been converted into luxury flats. Meredith Etherington-Smith, “Avenue Studios: Contemporary Artists Keep the Victorian Studio Tradition Alive.”

Albertine Lee

[1] Giles Walkley, “Establishment Kensington: Melbury Road,” in Artists’ Houses in London 1764-1914 (Aldershot, Hants, England; Brookfield, VT: Scolar Press, 1994), 238-41.

[2] Mark Stoker, Royalist and Realist: The Life and Work of Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm (New York and London: Garland, 1988), 25. Boehm’s studio at The Avenue actually consisted of nos. 2, 4, 14, and 15. His previous studios had included 34 Onslow Square (1871) and 78 Cornwall Gardens, Chelsea (1881).

[3] “Sir (Joseph) Edgar Boehm Bart, RA,” Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain & Ireland 1851-1951, accessed November 16, 2016, sculpture.gla.ac.uk/view/person.php?id=msib2_1213799161; Maurice B. Adams, “Bent’s Brook,” Artists’ Homes (London, 1883), no. XIV. Boehm’s home address remains something of a mystery: Mapping the Practice has him at 34 Euston Square from 1862 to 1891, but according to Mark Stocker, Wetherby Gardens was his final London residence (Royalist and Realist, 328, n. 67).

[4] “Sir Edgar Boehm,” Pall Mall Gazette (London, England), December 13, 1890, 4, British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.

[5] Pall Mall Gazette (London, England), issue 8034 (December 18, 1890), British Library Newspapers, Part I: 1800-1900.

[6] Connoisseur 207 (July 1981): 211–14.


THE OXFORD DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY (2004) entry on Annie is given below, written by Pamela Gerrish Nunn, a recognised expert on the period and subject area in general. It is remarkably rich in detail considering so little else had been witten about Annie at the time.

Swynnerton [née Robinson], Annie Louisa (1844-1933), artist, was born 26 February 1844 at 3 Vine Grove [1], Hulme, Manchester, one of the seven daughters of Francis Robinson, a lawyer, and his wife, Ann Sanderson. After training at the Manchester School of Art (from 1871), where she won a scholarship for watercolour and a gold medal for oil painting, she went to Paris; here she studied at the Académie Julian and admired the work of naturalist painter Jules Bastien-Lepage.

In 1874 she went to Rome with fellow Mancunian Susan (Isabel) Dacre for further artistic experience. She returned to her home town and in 1879 became co-founder with Dacre of the Manchester Society of Women Painters. This initiative was intended to supply the deficiencies of art training for women in the city.

With an introduction to Edward Burne-Jones, she made her debut at the Royal Academy in 1879, which was followed by annual appearances there until 1886, and again from 1902 until 1904. Other appearances in exhibitions were at the Society of Women Artists (1887): the Grosvenor Gallery (1882-7) and its successor, the New Gallery (1890-1909); the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers; and the World’s Colombian Exhibition in Chicago (1893).

On 6 July 1883 she married the sculptor Joseph William Swynnerton (1848-1910), son of Charles Swynnerton, and they subsequently divided their time between Italy and England; their London studio was in Shepherd’s Bush. After her husband died in 1910, her British base was a studio in Chelsea.

During her lifetime Swynnerton’s professional distinctions included associateship of the Manchester Academy (1884), membership of the hanging committee of the autumn exhibiton (1895), held at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, and associateship of the Royal Academy (1922). In this last case she made history in so far as the RA had (controversially) elected no women to its membership since the founding academicians Angelica Kauffmann and Mary Moser in 1768.

Swynnerton became something of an ‘artist’s artist’, counting G. F. Watts, George Clausen, and John Singer Sargent among her admirers and patrons. Her painting was noted by both admirers and critics for vigorous brushwork and bold subjects, often using the full-length nude figure (Mater Triumphalis, 1892, Musèe d’Orsay, Paris), and abstract or ideal themes (The Sense of Sight, 1895, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool). An independent styalist, she incorporated aspects of Pre-Raphaelitism, neo-classicism, and impressionism into her work over the years. She also produced much successful portraiture of men, women, and children (Henry James, 1910; Dame Millicent Fawcett, 1930).

A retrospective of fifty-nine of Swynnerton’s works was held at Manchester City Art Gallery in 1923. She became well represented internationally within her lifetime, with paintings entering the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, the Johannesburg Art Gallery in South Africa, and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottowa; in addition, the Tate collection has six [2] of her works.

Acquiring a reputation in her older years as a ‘character’ because of her independent style of dress, her forthrightness and indifference to conventions, and her candid enthusiasm for her work, she led a reclusive life for her last few years as her sight began to fail. She continued to paint until a few months before her death on 24 October 1933 at her home, Sicilia, in Beach Road, Hayling Island, Hampshire.

Source: Pamela Gerrish Nunn in Matthew H.C.G. and Harrison, B. (2004) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (vol. 53), Oxford University Press, p530-1.

Notes:

[1] Still a residential road, but has been redeveloped with modern housing.

[2] With aquisition of the Portrait of Elizabeth Williamson in 2017 the Tate now has seven works.


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