Biographical notes – 1870-1879

< 1844-1869 / 1880s >

c. 1870

Late 1860s

Sometime from 1868, certainly by 1870/1871. Emily, Annie and Julia enrolled as students at the Manchester School of Art (Elizabeth Crawford – Woman and Her Sphere, retrieved 11 Mar 2023).

20 September 1870- Joseph witnesses the breakthrough at Rome’s Porta Pia by Victor Emmanuel’s troops, during the ‘Risorgimento,’ the military campaign to unify Italy. (He later befriended Garibaldi, whose bust he made.)


The Robinson family recorded as living in two rooms in a terraced house near Hulme (World Socialist Web Site, 31 Jul 2018).

Annie starts attendance at Manchester School of Art (Swinnerton Society Journal, 13(6), Dec 2008), along with her sisters Emily and Julia.

The 1871 census shows Annie (27, artist), living with her sisters Emily (26, artist), Julia (24, artist), Mary (16, scholar) and Frances (14, scholar) in lodgings at 28 Upper Brook Street, central Manchester, while Sarah (22) and Adela (19) were visiting with Mrs Sarah Robinson, an elderly widowed relation, and their aunt Mary on the other side of the same street, at number 13.[ix] There is no mention of the parents in the census (Elizabeth Crawford – Woman and Her Sphere, retrieved 18 Mar 2023.).


Annie‘s first comissioned portrait: “ALL-WOMAN ART SHOW [London, exact location not given] … one of the most interesting items is the first portrait the late Mrs. Annie L. Swynnerton, A.R.A., was commissioned to do. Painted in 1872, it is a picture of its present owner, Mrs. Warren, when a child. (The Shepton Mallett Journal, 9 Mar 1934, p6.) It was also exhibited in 1956.

“Around 1872, Lord Leighton dictated notes and observations on his methods of painting and composing his pictures to Susan Dacre, during a stay on the island of Capri” (Wikipedia, origin of information unrecorded.)

Joseph awarded Gold Medal for sculpture at the Accademia, the medal being presented by the Pope (Swinnerton Society Journal, 13(6), Dec 2008).


AUGUST – “Manchester School of Art. – The following are tbe scholarships and prizes awarded by the Science and Art Department to students of tho Manchester School of Art in the national competition:- The Princess of Wales’s Scholarships, of which there are only two given each year, were gained by Eleanor S. Wood, £25, and Annie L. Robinson, £11. Of the ten gold medals annually given to the whole of the Schools of Art in Great Britain, of which there are 120, two have been won by pupils of the Manchester Schoor, viz., Eleanor S. Wood and Annie L. Robinson. Out of 25 silver medals given to the whole of the schools, two have come to pupils of the Manchester School: Annie Hastling and John H. Henshall. Maria Harris, Julia Robinson, and Matthew J. Johnson won bronze medals. Emily Robinson and Mary E. Southworth gained the Queen’s Prize for painting from life, and Eleanor S. Wood for a group. The following pupils took third grade prizes: Annie Calvert, Benjamin Dawson, Priscilla Morgan, Henry Pethybridge, Emily Robinson, Albert Rothery, Kate A Sharpies, Richard H. Whitehead, James Whitson, Deborah Bury, Frederick W. Burton, Thomas R. Davison, John H. Farran.” (Manchester Evening News, 20 Aug 1873.)

DECEMBER – “MANCHESTER SCHOOL OF ART … Awarded by the Science and Art department. Princess of Wales Scholarships: … Annie L. Robinson, £11 [just under £1000 at 2023 value] … gold medal for a group in oil … Julia Robinson, bronze medal for group in oil and chalk drawing … Queen’s Prizes: Emily Robinson, painting from Life … Third Grade Prizes … Emily Robinson” (The Manchester Guardian, 24 Dec 1873,) Emily’s prize being a book (Elizabeth Crawford – Woman and Her Sphere, retrieved 18 Mar 2023).

[Eleanor Stuart Wood, later a founding member of the Manchester Society of Women Painters, also won several awards.] (The Manchester Guardian, 24 Dec 1873.)


DECEMBER – “MANCHESTER SCHOOL OF ART … Silver Medals: Emily Robinson, oil painting still life … Bronze Medals: … Julia Robinson, painting in oil … Queen’s prizes: Susan Dacre, painting fruit in oil … Third Grade Prizes: … Annie L. Robinson, oil painting, Julia L. Robinson, paintiagia* oil.” (Manchester Guardian, 23 Dec 1974. *Typography as in original document.)

1874-1876 – Annie and Isabel in Rome.

In 1874 Annie Robinson travelled to Rome with her friend Isabel Dacre to study and paint, returning to Manchester in 1876. We do not know exactly when in 1874 they left Manchester, nor exactly when in 1876 they returned (Elizabeth Crawford – Woman and Her Sphere, retrieved 18 Mar 2023).


SEPTEMBER – “YORKSHIRE EXHIBITION OF ARTS AND MANUFACTURES … Several new pictures were shown for the first time. One was a cleverly-executed painting of an Italian girl by Miss Susan Dacre.” (The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 25 Sep 1875. p6.)

Annie leaves Manchester School of Art. (Swinnerton Society Journal, 13(6), Dec 2008.)


NOVEMBER – “CAPED, DUNN & PILCHER … will sell by auction … WATER-COLOUR DRAWINGS … Fruit and flower drawings by E. S. Wood, Annie L. Robinson, and Annie F. Hastling …” (The Guardian, 2 Nov 1876.)


MARCH – Exhibition at the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts. Susan Isabel Dacre singled out for special praise.

  • Miss Annie L. Robinson.
    • Love Birds.
    • Roses. “… a large and ambitious portrait of a lady in a white satin dress, with a bunch of red roses in her hand … The pose of the figure is pleasing and somewhat original, although founded on similar attitudes to be found in Sir Joshua Reynolds’s works … we cannot detect the presence of the human form divine underneath the grand satin dress. There is an absence of flesh and blood …
  • Miss S. Isabel Dacre. ” … Miss Dacre’s work is as far removed as possible from the ordinary standard of young ladie’s art, and she is … entitled to first place among them.
    • Phryne. “… a nude academic figure … the sole example of this class of art in the exhibition.”
    • Geoffrey. “a portrait of a boy.
    • For God and the Cause.
    • Giovanina. “… being a portrait of a handsome Italian girl.
    • The Venitian. “… one of the gems of the exhibition.
  • Miss Emily Robinson
    • A Little Market Woman.
    • Shower.
    • The Lover’s Errand.

(The Manchester Evening News, 16 Mar 1877. The Manchester Courier, and Lancashire General Advertiser, 15 Mar 1877.)

OCTOBER – “WHAITE’S FINE ART GALLERY … in Bridge-street … Manchester … contains some of the best specimens of the Manchester school … “Little Roughhead” by Miss Julia Robinson, and the “School Girl” by the same artist, are pleasing specimens of he skill in domestic subjects.” (Manchester Times, 20 Oct 1877. No guarantee this is Annie’s sister, just a name match.:

NOVEMBER – “MANCHESTER ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS ANNUAL EXHIBITION … Miss Susan Dacre has a good vigerous study of a head … Miss A. L. Robinson send an ambitious work this year entitled “Amor and Psyche.” 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 … all is prosaic, crude, and and inclining to vulgarity. … Miss Eleanor Wood, Mrs. Pollitt, and Miss Dacre are also fairly represented, although we miss the vigorous fruit pieces of the first-named lady.” (The Manchester Courier, and Lancashire General Advertiser, 2 Nov 1877, p5.)


FEBRUARY – “BLACK AND WHITE EXHIBITION … [galleries of] Mr. W. E. Hamer … A fair proportion of ladies are numbered among the exhibitors. Miss Thompson’s graceful little sketches of gamboling faeries and submarine marvels … among the other ladies … Miss Dacre, Mrs. J. R. Pollitt, Miss Magnus, Miss Breakell, Miss Robinson, and Miss E. S. Wood.” (The Manchester Weekly Times, 16 Feb 1878.)

MARCH – “[At] THE MANCHESTER ACADEMY’S EXHIBITION … There are also [in addition to the many male artists mentioned in the article] contributions from the following ladies:- A. L. Robinson, E. Magnus, F. Monkhouse, E. Wasse, L. M. Hindle, E. S. Wood, J. R. Pollitt, A. E. Hastling, E. Robinson, I Dacre, F. Barker, M. S. Breakel. The Manchester Academy has not the magnanimity to admit women artists to tis full privileges, not is it so unjust as to exclude them entirely. They are neither “members” nor “associates,” but “lady exhibitors.” … Have artists yet to learn that admission to an academy of fine arts should depend solely upon the artistsc merits of the candidate?” (The Manchester Evening News, 5 Mar 1878.)

Isabel singled out for special praise again: “Manchester Academy of Fine Arts inaugurated it annual exhibition [on Tue 5 March] … Miss Susan Isabel Dacre gives evidence in “A Portrait” … we are strongly incluned to think that that the work before us indicates genius …” (The Manchester Courier, and Lancashire General Advertiser, 8 Mar 1878.)

Miss Annie L. Robinson has a large full-length portrait of Mrs. Eason Wilkinson … and although defective in some respects, gives promise of better work in the future.” (The Manchester Courier, and Lancashire General Advertiser, 8 Mar 1878.)

Portrait of Louisa Wilkinson (Mrs Eason Wilkonsin).

1878-1879 – Annie at the Académie Julian, Paris.


Annie and Isabel return to England (Inigo Thomas, 27 Sep 2018, London Review of Books 40(18), pp28-9).

Annie’s first exhibit at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, a ‘Portrait of a lady.’ Annie’s address give as ‘Miss A. L. Robinson, 5 Denmark Road, Greenheys, Manchester.


Miss Annie L. Robinson exhibits an almost startling progress in her work this year, which singles her out from not only the lady artists of the Academy, but from al others. There are qualities in her (No. 74) Portrait of a Lady that would not detract from the reputation of many an artist of almost world-wide reputation.

Manchester Evening News, 19 Feb 1879, p4, referring to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

Manchester Society of Women Painters

SEPTEMBER – “Some of the lady artists of the district are about to form an association “to provide facilities for the members working together and studying from the life, and to disseminate the principles of true art among art students generally, who are desirous of more thorough training, wider experience, and a higher culture” … The Society as at present consistuted consists of Miss S. Isabel Dacre (president), Miss Annie L. Robinson (secretary), Miss Emily Robinson (treasurer), Miss E. Gertrude Thomson, Miss Eleanor S. Wood, Miss Jane Atkinson, and Miss Julia Pollitt …” (The Guardian, 27 Sep 1879.)

MANCHESTER SOCIETY OF WOMEN PAINTERS. ART CLASSES Commence October 1: Study from the living model and the antique. – Particulars may be obtained at 10, Barton House, Deansgate, from 10 a.m. to 12 daily. ANNIE L. ROBINSON, Secretarty.

Manchester Courier, 27 Sep 1879, p1.


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 … The portrait has been painted by Miss A. Robinson, of Manchester, and is an excellent likeness.

Manchester Evening News, 3 Oct 1979.

4 Oct 1879 – “MANCHESTER SOCIETY OF FEMALE PAINTERS. A society under this designation has just been established in Manchester …” (Manchester Weekly Times, 4 Oct 1879, p7. The society’s established name became the Manchester Society of Women Painters.)

< 1844-1869 / 1880s >