Biographical notes – 1890-1899

< 1880s / 1900s >


Annie noted as a member of the Society of Portrait Painters in the catalogue of their first exhibition. Of the twenty-eight members, four were women – Annie Swynnerton, Louise Jopling, Anna Lea Merritt and Mary Waller. Annie exhibited the untraced work ‘Beatrice.’


Isabel on the selection committee for the Manchester Academy spring exhibition.

… Another capital new departure is reducing the committee of selection and hanging to three … Miss Isabel Dacre, Mr. H. Moxton Cook, and Mr. Byron Cooper” … “Here [room 3] will be found an exceedingly beautiful pastel portrait, No. 215, by Miss Dacre” (The Manchester Evening News, 13 Feb 1892, p2).

[The actual portrait is unknown, but Isabel’s Forest Nymph shows the quality she was capable of (and may have been the actual portrait).]


SOCIETY OF LADY ARTISTS … The present exhibition is held in the Maddox-street Galleries, Regent-street … the “Portrait of a Boy” (68), by Mrs Annie L. Swynnerton, is quite masculine in vigorous modelling and fine quality of colour.

The Queen, 22 Apr 1893, p64.

Annie at the Chicago World’s Fair.

Anna Lea Merrit

Mrs. Swynnerton and Mrs. Merritt are hard at work upon the decorations of the Women’s Section of the Chicago Exhibition. Mrs. Swynnerton’s contribution will consist of three large wall pictures of a domestic character, which will be sent to the exhibition by the end of next month to fill the space over three arches that range along one side of the hall of the Women’s Section. At the close of the exhibition the pictures become the property of the artists. The subject of one of Mrs. Swynnerton’s lunettes will illustrate “Nursing.”” (The Globe, 18 Jan 1893).

Both Anna Lea Merritt … [and] Annie Louisa Swynnerton were asked to make large murals … for the east “vestibule” in the Woman’s Building … There were some complaints that the vestibule in which both murals were hung was so narrow that it was hard to view them – which perhaps explains why no photos were ever taken of them, as far as we know.

The Women’s Building.

“The one by Mrs. Swynnerton represents three different phases of nursing, the care of the young, the sick, and the aged. The decoration is in the form of a triptych. The central panel represents the Crimean Hospital at Scutari, with the sick and wounded soldiers lying on their pallet beds, their faces turned toward the single gracious figure of Florence Nightingale standing in their midst, a figure full of dignity and of pathos. It was in this hospital that the dying boy kissed the shadow of Florence Nightingale as it fell upon the wall by his bed. In one of the smaller panels we have a handsome, robust young mother with a lusty child upon her knee, while the remaining one shows us the figure of an aged woman; beside her sits her young granddaughter.

Exhibition catalogue.

The central painting represents nursing in its terrible, and so to say millitent, aspect. The interest centres on the tall, slender figure of Florence Nightingale, as, candle in hand, she makes the rounds of her wards in the Crimean Hospital, the wounded soldier in rows to the right and to the left … the genius of the artist has succeeded in drawing the thoughts of the beholder to the beneficent rather than the ghastly associations of the scene. All three pictures show remarkabke breadth and vigour of treatment, and it is perfectly astonishing to hear that, though the figures are life size, they were begun on February 3rd, and packed for Chicago on March 31st” (Englishwoman’s Review, 15 Apr 1893).

[Of Annie’s painting] “… it is more a sketch than a picture, and it is one of the strongest ever painted by a woman – a vigorous sketch, 14ft high – and shows how strong woman’s art can be in color, design, and sentiment.” (Samoa Weekly Herald, 25 Nov 1893.)


DECEMBER – WARRINGTON MUSEUM. AN EXHIBITION of Works by THREE WOMEN PAINTERS: Miss I. DACRE. Mrs. KINGSLEY, of Tarpey; Mrs. E. E. HOUGHTON, is now on view. The MUSEUM is open from 10 a.m. till dusk, and from 6 till 9 p.m. Admission free. CHARLES MADELEY, Curator.


The principle centre [at the Liverpool Gallery Autumn Exhibition] has been accorded to Mrs. A. L. Swynnerton‘s “The Sense of Sight,” … It is one of the most impressive and successful pictures in the present exhibition, and, indeed, is in some degree the most successful picture in the whole collection. It is the first picture in a set of four which the artist has designed to illustrate the senses.” (The Liverpool Mercury, 31 Aug 1895.) [There is no record of Annie having completed this project.]

Annie becomes the second woman (after Henrietta Rae) to be elected a member of the Hanging Committee of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Autumn Exhibition.



8 July – A MEETING of art workers in Manchester and the district was held … it was resolved unanimously to establist an Artworker’s Guild for Manchester on the lines of the London Guild, and the following ladies and gentlemen were appointed a committee to draw up rules … [“Miss S. Isabel Dacre” named along with 26 others]. (The Builder, 18 July 1896.)


August 1896 – Joseph’s statute of St Winifred blessed by Pope Leo XIII.


Father Beauclerk has received the following letter from Mr J. W. Swynnerton, of Rome, who has sculptured the new white marble statue of St. Winefride.

Yesterday (August 14th) the Holy Father blessed St. Winefride. I will try and give you an account of it all. His Holiness gave me permission, through his private secretary, Monsignor Angeli, to carry the statue into the Vatican gardens, and place it where he wad accustomed to mount bis coach. But after seeing the spot – the open air – and considering that the Pope had not left his apartments for over ten days, and it was uncertain when he would go out, I approached him again through another channel, and he was pleased to say I might carry the statue into his ante-chamber and place it wherever I pleased. The permission was for Wednesday.

On Tuesday I saw Monslgnor Pifferi, Sacrista del Vaticano, and confessor to his Holiness. He looked up the name of St. Winefride to see if any relic existed in the Vatican of the saint. In an old volume be produced the name as written Sante Wenefrida,” but no relic exists. I saw him again yesterday just before the Pope blessed the statue, and he said that at one time there was a relic of the saint at the Vatican, but it no longer existed. I said how greatly pleased you would be to have such a relic for your new church, but he shook his head – ‘Non existe,’ No one knows what has become of it.

On Wednesday I arrived at the Vatican with St. Winefride safely packed in a huge case, weighing in all over a ton, with 11 strong men, ropes, rollers, &c., prepared to drag her upstairs to the second loggia and then into the Pope’s private apartments. We found it no easy task, and by the time I gob to the last few steps of the first floor I began to fear for the floors of the ante-chambers. At this Doint Commendatore Galli, director of the sculpture museum, came forward and declared it was not safe to introduce such a weight into the ante-chamber. Commendatore Veapigriani said the arches would bear it, bub he feared for the rooms.

Then orders came to stop from the Maestro di Casa until he consulted his Holiness, who had no idea of the weight. The Maestro di Casa returned with orders to carry the statue into the garden, which is ruin for my statue, I said, for it was raining then. By this time the statue was on the first floor, where are the loggias painted by Giovanni d’Udini. The Maestro di Casa and Galli returned upstairs again, and soon came back to say I could place the statue in the Loggia di Giovanni d’Udini, and his Holiness would come down and bless it when he came out. I had declared I should drag it into the Hall of St. Peter if it were necessary to get the Pope’s blessing, and that the statue was not going away until it was blessed.

So it was placed in a beautiful light near to the entrance to the Borgia rooms of the Museum, and with a shawl round the pedestal she looked lovely. The statue was given in charge of the Papal gendarmes there on duty. I was so pleased to see that in all things they had to consult his Holiness, and do nothing without special orders.

Monsignor Misciatelli, the prelate in attendance on his Holiness, said I should be told some hours before the Holy Father went out. Yesterday the Eve of the Assumption, my friend came to tell me at 1 o’clock that the Pope would go out at 5, and bless my statue on the way.

Before 5 I was beside my statue in evening dress, and punctually at 5 the Pope came out. His Holiness was borne in his Sedan chair by servants in their beantiful costumes. The Sedan chair was put down half a dozen yards from my statue, and I went forward and bent one knee, and kissed the ring of the Fisherman.

“His Holiness: Oh, this is the statue and the sculptor?

“Monslgnor, Here he is, Sante Padre.

“His Holiness: What is your name? Has it been made in Rome?” – “The model I made in London, and the marble work here. My name is Joseph Swynnerton.”

Here his Holiness placed his right hand on my left shoulder and walked with me to the front of the statue, asking questions all the time. I will try and remember them in the order tbey were put.

“For where is this statue made?” – “In Holy-well, in North Wales, your Holiness.”

“Oh, where there is the miraculous spring of water?” – “Yes, your Holiness.”

“Was she virgin and martyr, or virgin only?” – “Both virgin and martyr, you will see by the palm.”

“In what century did she live?” – “I believe the fifth century.”

“Oh, the time of Gregory the Great and Augustine. Why have you given her a sad expression?”

Here I said that the statue was not finished, and that I should be very glad to make any alteration his Holiness suggested. He said, “No, no, e’tella.” Then he asked me how it would be conveyed to England and how packed, and should I accompany it? All the while he leaned familiarly and kindly on my shoulder, giving me little pats and saying, “Bravo!” I explained to him that the ornaments of the dress and the crozier were all Celtic of the period. Finally, he said that he hoped that the statue would be for the conversion of many to the true faith. I said I was sure it would be when blessed by him. He then blessed it, and then me, I kneeling.

I forgot to say he said “The first idea was to get it into my ante-chamber, but it was too heavy,” with a smile. Then he entered his chair and blessed me again as he passed. More kind, more fatherly, or more tender he could not have been, and some who were present said they had rarely seen such a scene. I followed him into the garden, and Cardinal Maeeni gave me a bunch of flower to carry away.

I forgot to say that I told the Pope that thousands go each year to the well, that there are many miraculous cures, and that two had taken place in Rome. He said be had been told of them.”

The statue will shortly be shipped to Cardiff, where it will be conveyed by a pilgrimage by road to Holywell.

South Wales Daily News, 27 Aug 1896.


Annie signs the Claim for Women’s Suffrage.


THE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL OF THE MANCHESTER ACADEMY OF FINE ARTS issued invitations for a CONVERSAZIONE … Miss Dacre was there in silver-grey, with corsage of white lace … Mrs Pankhurst wore black and scarlet … (The Queen, 26 Feb 1898, p44).


Annie’s ‘A Dream of Italy’, on display in the New Gallery, London, receives mixed reviews:

  • “dry and incisive” – The Art Journal.
  • “flamboyant … too aggressive” – London Daily Mail.
  • “iron modelling and metallic draperies” – The Guardian.
  • “a nightmare … papier-mâché rocks” – Truth.
  • “… a combination of dignity and beauty that can only be called classical … full of joy” – The Standard.
  • “beautiful … wonderfully fine in drawing and colouring” – Isle of Man Weekly Times.

< 1880s / 1900s >