Biographical snippets: 1910-1919.

1910

Annie’s On the Terrace (Portrait of Mrs, Lionel Fenwick) is chosen along with 59 other works, plus sculpture casts, to form the beginnings of a collection for a public gallery in Johannesberg, South Africa. Mrs. Florence Philips and Hugh Lane were chief moving forces in organising the project, which also included works by Monet, Watts, Sargent, Lavery, Sickert, Boudin, Clausen, Augustus John and others. [Note: the painting is now in a private collection in the UK, so it is unclear whether it was every shipped to South Africa.]

JANUARY – 26 January, Letter from Ian Fenwick to Hugh Lane regarding Mrs Annie Louisa Swynnerton‘s address in Rome.

WICKLOW LODGE, MELTON MOWBRAY. / TELEPHONE, No. 102 MELTON.
Jan 26th – 10.
To Sir Hugh Lane B… London
… Sir,
I am in receipt of your letter giving Mrs. Swynnerton’s address in Rome and am writing her there. I will b… the cheque as requested.
Yours Truly
I. .. Fenwick.

National Library of Ireland.

MAYAnnie begins her Portrait of Henry James, and is noted by James to be still working on it in 1911.

10 August, 1910 – DEATH OF JOSEPH SWYNNERTON

Obituary from Mannin (Isle of Man journal), vol. 2, no. III, written by Joseph’s brother, Frederick:

… Joseph William Swynnerton, the fourth son of Charles Swinnerton and Mary Collister his wife, was born in Douglas on July 6th, 1848.

… at the age of fourteen he was withdrawn [from school], as it was intended that he should follow his father’s business, monumental sculpture. … At the age of twenty he went for a few months to Edinburgh to study at the Academy in that city … and there he gained a prize. Returning to the Isle of Mann, he executed busts of his father, his brother Robert, and Mr. Brearey, which in spite of small defects due to want of proper training, were highly promising works …

… he was sent to Rome in his twenty-first year … Upon arriving in Rome in 1869 he at once entered the Academy of St. Luke … There he passed two years of assiduous study among a cosmopolitan crowd of students drawn from every nation in Europe, whose absurd pranks at times, caused laughter in after years. In his first year he won Pope Pius IX’s second (silver) medal, and in his second year the first (gold) medal for Sculpture … [Rome] was still under Papal government for part of the time, insanitary, and despotically ruled it may be, but yet with all those semi-medieval features and associations dear to artists which modern improvements” have destroyed. … Upon one occasion he accompanied an artist friend who wanted to make a sketch of one of those artificial caverns which have been hollowed out of the soft tufa rock of the Campagna to procure the well known volcanic ash used in building. They tied one end of a string to the entrance to guide them out of the labyrinth, but the string breaking they passed a very anxious space of time wandering by candle light among the interminable pillars of rock before they hit upon the exit. He became a member of the British Academy in Rome. He made the acquaintance of many foreign artists of various nationalities, and besides Italian. He studied German and French sufficiently to be able to read the works of Moliere and Schiller in their proper languages.

He was in Rome during the historical breaching of the ancient wall of Aurelian by the troops of King Victor Emmanuel. His curiosity on that occasion carried him within the danger zone, so that he was witness of a shell rolling among a group of Papal artillery-men, exploding, killing and wounding six of them. A piece of the same shell struck an iron pipe just above where he had thrown himself on the ground.

Immediately upon leaving St. Luke’s he executed a half-life sized statue of “Cain” … which … called forth commendation from Mr. Ruskin in a private letter. … Upon exhibiting this in Manchester he was given numerous orders for Manchester magnates … He was elected a member of the Manchester Literary Society, and of the Manchester Academy of Art. He brought “Cain” to the Isle of Mann, and exhibited it in Douglas. This was followed next year by his “Cupid and Psyche,” and during this visit to the Island he executed some exquisite small busts of his father, mother, and his brother Charles. He also modelled busts of Mr. Speaker Goldie-Taubman and his eldest son, and then, or afterwards, Mr. Robert Collister of Ramsey.

… always frail in physique he was a hard and cheerful worker, and was never so happy as when busy in his studio in Rome. For several years this was in the Piazza Trinita de Monti, and we lived close by in the Via Gregoriana. Afterwards he had his studio on the ground floor of the house he built himself, in the new part of the city — No. 2 Via Montebello, overlooking the British Embassy garden. In the earlier period we used to have frequent excursions together, nor shall I forget how we went riding among the Alban woods and vineyards, mounted on our hired nags, whether horses or mules, tilting at each other with long canes to the amusement of the countryfolk. Or, on foot, generally with congenial friends, we have climbed Mount Soracte, the Alban Hill, and Monte Gennaro, the highest peak of the Sabines, crossed Lake Bracciano in a ramshackle canoe and were nearly sunk in a storm, and have tramped through the innermost recesses of the Sabine and Volscian mountains, visiting their classical sites or prehistoric cities, buying ancient coins or majolica pottery, not forgetting, as an accompaniment to rather coarse rustic fare, the famous vintages of that beautiful country. He was a genial companion.

About his thirty-second year he belonged to the Roman Section of the Italian Alpine Club, and with its members he climbed the highest peaks of the Apennines. In one descent while negotiating a knife-like ridge between two peaks, the party being roped together, and he the last man, several of the leading men slipped on the steep and hard snow slope, and had it not been for his cool and timely dispositions the whole party would probably have perished. In spite of his frail build he was an indefatigable walker.

He extended generous hospitality to his friends and relations … His father was also his guest in Rome on two separate occasions …

His favourite authors were Dickens and Moliere, and latterly Tom Brown the poet. He did not care much for the remains of antiquity outside art. During his last years he acted as Hon. Treasurer to the Committee of the British Academy in Rome …

About his thirty-first year he married Annie L. Robinson, a very talented artist, one of whose pictures has lately had the distinguished honour of being purchased by the French Government for the Luxembourg Gallery, Paris. With her he lived in the greatest harmony and affection until his death. He left no children.

He loved Rome and knew it well. It was a pleasure to walk with him through the Eternal City, as he was versed in much lore concerning its churches, palaces, and so forth. In advanced years he told me that he loved to perambulate its silent streets at night … He had many Italian friends, and hence, upon invitation, he took part in an educational movement among the Italian troops, and this resulted in his presentation to H.M. Queen Margarita, the Patroness of the movement.

His love for the Isle of Mann was however still greater, and he delighted in books concerning it … He generally visited it upon his returns from Italy, and spent a few weeks near the sea, generally at Port St. Mary. Not long before he died he executed a bust of Tom Brown. ,,,

He early rebelled against the classicality of Roman tradition, and many of his works show a strong leaning to naturalism …

He had been affected with an aneurism for many years and that it should have culminated just when he might have looked forward to a pleasant rest from his labours and manifold worries, is a matter of infinite regret. He was taken ill in Rome. Towards the end he went to a specialist in London, whence he wrote to me two weeks before he died expressing a wish that I were with him to go for some fishing to the Port.” There, indeed, he went soon afterwards, a dying man, accompanied by his wife, and after a slight rally he died on the 10th August, 1910, attended in his last moments by his wife and by his niece, Miss Katherine Blakeley. He was buried in Kirk Maughold Churchyard, where some years before he had expressed a wish to lie. [Source: Mannin.]

Joseph was buried in Maughold churchyard on August 11. (Source: gla.ac.uk.)

1911

Myself when young.

“I WAS wearing a new dress from Liberty’s, my first pair of silk stockings and dancing slippers. Jack, our poodle, was beside me. I can still smell the oil of lavender she used.” Evelyn Bellhouse was seven when Manchester artist Annie Swynnerton was invited to her parents’ home in Alderley Edge to paint her. The year was 1911 and Mrs. Swynnerton was 67, already well established as an artist of the first order and bracketed with names like Laura Knight. Her husband, the Manx sculptor Joseph Swynnerton, had just died and she had returned from Rome where they had been living.”

My father invited her to stay with us and I can remember her smoking a cigar. She didn’t finish the painting while she was with us but she took my dress away with her, and the couch I’m sitting on belonged to the artist J. S. Sargent, a friend of hers.”

The following year the painting ot Evelyn was exhibited at the Royal Academy and prompted rave reviews. ‘Her child’s portrait Evelyn. daughter of Vernon Bellhouse, Esq. is likely to add greatly to her reputation. The rich and mellow colouring, the wonderful effect of golden light and, above all, the exquisite unearthly expression sometimes seen on the child’s face all combine to make it one of the best pictures of the year,’ wrote the art critic of the Standard.

Said the Manchester Guardian: ‘One of the best pieces of face portraiture in the whole exhibition.’ And the Observer ‘The picture is so original in conception, so firm in construction, so daring in treatment. so uncompromising in its rejection of easy expedients to obtain pretty effects, that it may be said to stand alone among the portraits at Burlington House.’

Vernon Bellhouse’s little girl wasn’t aware of the sensation she had caused. After the exhibition the picture came back to Alderley Edge to be hung at the top of the stairs. But when they moved to a smaller house no wall could accommodate it adequately and it was stacked behind a chest of drawers.”

I’d had enough of it by then anyway,” Miss Bellhouse confessed. “As you grow older you don’t particularly want to be reminded daily of what you were like as a child.”

Now she has decided to sell the painting and it will be one of the major items at Sotheby’s sale of paintings, drawings watercolours and prints on October 14. The experts have estimated a price somewhere between £1,000 and £2,000. [The painting was sold at the auction, 21 Jun 1983.]

P.H.

Swinnerton Family History -The Journal of the Swinnerton Society, 5(2), Sep 1982, p37.

JUNE

[On 17 June Annie] headed the section of Chelsea artists in the Coronoation [of George V and Mary] Procession organised by the Women’s Suffrage Societies. (Journal of the Swinnerton Society, 13(6), Dec 2008, p149.)

1913

MARCHIsabel and Francis Dodd have a joint exhibition in Manchester. Isabel’s work highly praised: “Miss S. Isabel Dacre’s Italian landscapes, which form the larger part of an exhibition that opens today [the others being watercolours by Francis Dodd] in Mr. Charles Jackson’s gallery in Police Street, Manchester, have a distinguished place of their own in comtemporary English paintings … which no other living British artist’s work quite possesses” (The Manchester Guardian, 28 Mar 1913). Isabel’s Siena is mentioned in the article.

OCTOBER – A compliments note in Annie’s hand, dated “13.X.13” (13 Oct 1913; Ebay Feb 2021, the origin of the note is unstated).

The text reads: “Annie L. Swynnerton / 13.X.13. With the Swynnerton’s Compliments.