‘A Dream of Italy’ was in Brooklyn, not the Met / Annie and Joseph in 1879 / 1928 road accident / Annie’s eyesight / Letters / 1923 catalogue

Consider this the “June 1st” post. I’m posting it early because I know there are others actively researching at this moment and wanted to get the information ‘out there.’

Thank you to everyone who has provided source material and helped interpret/clarify matters, not just recently, but over the past few years – Emma, Elizabeth, Grant, Alastair, Vicky, Caroline, Michael and many others. While the quality of this site has been complimented, it really has been a collaberative effort.

A flurry of new information means that this is an extended posting, conterary to my best intentions! Future ones will be far briefer. As stated before, I’m winding down my activity, wishing to concentrate on other personal projects, but if interesting information comes along (including auction appearances), I’ll pass the news on.

A DREAM IF ITALY was never owned or exhibited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (the ‘Met’). That suggestion came from newspapers of the period, and is also suggested in the 1923 catalogue of Annie’s exhibition in Manchester. The Met have kindly searched their archives thoroughly, finding no record of the work. Other sources confirm that the correct institution was Brooklyn Museum. Why this confusion originally occurred is unclear – perhaps the two institutions worked together at times, causing names/locations to become confused, or authors simply did not realise the Brooklyn and the Met are separate institutions.

Brooklyn acquired the work in 1920, but it was removed from the collection – ‘deaccessioned’ – in 1947, entering private ownership. It’s worth remembering this was after two World Wars and a major (1929-1939) recession. Budgets would have been very tight and one can understand the necessity to pick and choose what was retained and cared for and what had to be let go, given galleries’ limited space and resources.

(There is still some conflicting information. Some sources say the work was a gift, while other say a large sum was paid.)

Sincere thanks to E_ M_, the Met and Brooklyn for their assistance.

IT IS UNKNOWN how Annie originally met her husband Joseph, but there is a reference that works by both artists – a bust by Joseph and a painting by Annie – were presented to the Rev. William Gaskell at The Portico Library,* 3rd October 1879. The article does not say wether Annie and Joseph were present, but this obviously indicates that they were probably well aware of each other as artists at this time.

This morning … a bust of the Rev. W. Gaskell was presented to the institution [Portico Library, Mosley Street, Manchester], and … a portrait of the rev. gentleman was presented to himself. … The bust, which is one of white marble, has been executed by Mr. J. W. Swinnerton [incorrect spelling as in article] … The portrait has been painted by Miss A. Robinson, of Manchester, and is an excellent likeness. (Manchester Evening News, 3 Oct 1879.)

Elizabeth Crawford in Woman and Her Sphere suggests their knowledge of each other as artists dates back to at least 1877, and probably earlier.

* The Portico Library is a cultural centre in Manchester.

ANNIE WAS INJURED in a road accident in 1928. Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive there are now details of this (added to the biographical notes for the 1920s):

“Mrs. Annie L. Swynnerton, Associate of the Royal Academy, was crossing Fulham-road when she was knocked down by a motorcar. She was removed to hospital where it was found she was suffering from an injured foot. She was reported on Tuesday afternoon [6 Nov] to be progressing comfortably” (Western Mail, 7 Nov 1928, p9).

“… badly injured in her foot” (Daily News (London), 7 Nov 1928, p9).

“Mrs. Annie L. Swynnerton, A.R.A., whose foot was injured in a motor car accident, is progressing favourably at St. Luke’s Hospital, Chelsea.” (Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 7 Nov 1928, p10.)

ANNIE’S EYESIGHT was said to be poor in 1925 – Siegfried Sasoon met her at Hill House and commented that she was “almost blind” (1920s biographical notes). However, according to the Daily Herald (a London-based newspaper, 25 Oct 1933, p9), her eyesight only began to fail in 1933. Obvious disparity and clarification needed. From memory, other references do suggest her eyesight was becoming poorer earlier rather than later.

INTRIGUING COMMENT in an obituary for Annie in the Manchester Evening News, 25 Oct 1933, p4, “Recently she had written a number of letters, telling of her work, to Mrs. Bancroft, of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts.” I assume this is Louisa Mary (Heald) Bancroft A.R.C.A., F.R.S.A., 1864-1948, a floral artist. It would be interesting to discover whether these are archived anywhere.

I HAVE BEEN very kindly sent a copy of the catalogue for the 1923 exhibition of Annie’s works at Manchester Art Gallery, held to celebrate her admittance to the Royal Academy.

It solves a number of mysteries, such as the correct title for Landscape with figures, and the identity of the sitter in Master and Man. An annotated transcript of the catalogue is available HERE.

The main findings are:

  • Portrait of a young boy with a Shetland pony is now known to have been titled Billy and Tommy, and location to be Hill Hall, Epping. (Oil sketch of a pony could therefore be the work listed in the same exhibition catalogue as Billy, although this is guesswork really.)
  • Oreads is called ‘The Oreades‘ in the 1923 catalogue, perhapse after the French spelling ‘Les Oreades.’ The modern spelling is retained on this web site because it is grammatically correct.
  • The Barren Fig is now referred to as The Barren Figtree, the spelling as in the 1923 catalogue.
  • The Soul’s Journey is now called Study for “The Soul’s Journey” as in the 1923 catalogue.
  • It is confirmed as correct to use the surname ‘Greville’ for Lady Mercy’s portrait – auction catalogues tend to use a later married surname, Marter. (Thanks to Grant Waters for first pointing this out.)
  • Portrait of Count Zoubov is renamed Portrait of Count Zouboff, as in the 1923 catalogue.
  • The Equestrian portrait of Elizabeth Williamson is renamed Elizabeth at Wemmergill, the title in the 1923 catalogue.
  • Painting no. 51, formerly ‘Lady standing by flowering ivy‘ is confirmed to be Annie’s portrait of Miss Agnes Garrett, as suspected by Elizabeth Crawford.
  • Master and Man is now known to be a portrait of Joseph Swynnerton, and is now named as in the catalogue, Master and Man (Portrait of Mr. Swynnerton).

Jonathan Russell, 21 May 2023.

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