Biographical notes: 1920-1929.

< 1910s / 1930s >


OCTOBER – Comment in The Guardian lamenting that Annie is represented in only two public galleries. [In fact, she was represented in five at this date: The Tryst (Salford, acquired 1880), Cupid and Psyche (Oldham, 1892), The Sense of Sight (Liverpool, 1896), Oceanid (Bradford, 1908), Portrait of the Reverend William Gaskell (Manchester, 1914), ]

I hear that Mrs. Swynnerton‘s painting “A Dream of Italy” has just been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of New York … It is a curious and saddening reflection that this veteran artist … is only represented in two English public galleries. In Manchester [and] Oldham. Mrs. Swynnerton is now in her seventy-sixth year, and if any honour is to come to her from her own country it should not be much longer delayed.

The Guardian, 19 Oct 1920.




FIRST WOMAN ELECTED A.R.A / Mrs. Annie L. Swynnerton, the celebrated painter, who, at the age of seventy-eight, is the first woman to be elected an associate of the Royal Academy. Two women were among the foundation members of the Academy” (Daily Mirror, 25 Nov 1922).
THE FIRST WOMAN A.R.A / Mrs. Annie L. Swynnerton, who has been elected and Associate of the Royal Academy. She was born in Manchester. The photograph was taken yesterday” (The Guardian, 25 Nov 1922).

The same photo as above was used in Duluth Herald (Minnesota, U.S.A.), 28 Dec, with the comment, “The Royal Academy, the fountain head of British Art, has just honoured Mrs. Annie L. Swynnerton with election to an associate membership, This is the first time since the days of Sir Joshua Reynolds that a woman has been admitted.

‘I am much gratified at the honour bestowed upon me,’ she said on learning of her election to the RA, ‘but true art needs no incentive; its work is its own reward.’

Inigo Thomas (27 Sep 2018) London Review of Books, 40(18), pp28-9).


2 December, The Illustrated London News …


9 December, The Sphere …

The captions read:

[Top left] “A Typical Example of Mrs. Swynnerton’s Work / Mrs. Annie Swynnerton’s work has long been admired by other eminent British artists. Among women she occupies an unique place. She has even been described as “one of the six inspired British painters living.” Her work is of the most virile nature, as the few examples we reproduce her go to show.

[Top right] “A Corner of Mrs. Swynnerton’s studio in Fulham Road / The new A.R.A. is the first woman since the foundation of the Royal Academy – the first woman, in fact, to be elected, the other two women members, Angelica Kauffman and Mary Moser, being foundation members over a century ago. At Mrs. Swynnerton’s studio are many fine examples of her distinguished and virile art.

[Bottom left] “A Study of a Child [New-risen Hope] by Mrs. Swynnerton / Pictures by Mrs. Swynnerton have been exhibited at the Academy for many years. One of them, the “Dryads,” [error as in original article, correct spelling Oreads] was recently presented to the nation by Mr. J. Sargent, R.A.”

[Bottom right] “Pictures taken exclusively for The Sphere by Vandyk* / Mrs. Annie L. Swynnerton, the First Elected Woman A.R.A. / The new A.R.A. is in her seventy-eighth year. She is the daughter of a Manchester lawyer, and learned the technique of her art in Manchester and at Rome.” [*Carl Vandyk, 1851-1931, a German-born, London photographer of royalty and society, as well as being the owner of four hotels.]

19 December, The Victoria Daily Times


… At a meeting of the Royal Academy recently Mrs Anne [name spelled as in original article] Swynnerton was elected as an associate of the Academy. She is 77.* The election sets a president, because no woman artist has up to now ever been elected, although two women were among the foundation members of the Royal Academy. For years Mrs. Swynnerton has held the leading position among women artists, although others, especially Mrs. Laura Knight, have been more prominantly before the public eye … Mrs. Swynnerton, in an interview, said: “Professionally this recognition of women artists should be a great help. It marks such a very long stage from my young days, when women were not admitted to the Academy schools, and it was difficult for them to get their best work exhibited.

Mr John Sargent is an admirer of her art, and he purchased her picture “Oeads,” [error as in original article, correctly spelled Oreads] which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1907.

The work is now in the Tate Gallery.

Mr. George Clausen bought for the National Gallery at Melbourne [Australia] her picture “New-Risen Hope.”

Her work is shown, too, in the New York Museum, the director paying 1,000 guineas [in 1920, equivalent to about £36,000 in 2022] for “A Dream of Italy.”

Mrs. Swynnerton is the daughter of a Manchester lawyer, and was trained at the Manchester Art School. She now works in London.

[* An error. Annie was 78.]

23 December, American Art News

Mrs. Swynnerton Decked Self with Gems To Receive Word of Brief Honors in Art.

LONDON – The election of Mrs. Annie L. Swynnerton as an Associate of the Royal Academy in November, an honor subsequently withdrawn owing to the fact that she had passed the age limit for election, caused a great stir. The newspapers reflected this by printing long accounts of how Mrs. Swynnerton learned of her “election” and of her expressed doubts as to its being a fact. Here is the London Daily Graphic’s account, with details regarding her reception of the “news,” her age and her interesting personality:

“The most surprised woman in London yesterday was Mrs. Annie L. Swynnerton, who, at the age of seventy-seven* is the first woman elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy since 1768. Three models, young men, rushed to give her the news late on Thursday night. Mrs. Swynnerton apparently did not know, but models make it a rule to wait outside Burlington House during an election of new Associates, then they immediately rush off with the news to the artists’ homes, hoping to get a guinea.

[* An error. Annie was 78.]

“‘I had never seen them before,’ she said. ‘When they knocked at my door, at about eleven o’clock, they made such a noise that I was quite frightened.’

“Mrs. Swynnerton, I am sure, did not accept their news, either believingly or with enthusiasm because, even yesterday at lunch-time, when she had read the news in the morning papers, she was inclined to doubt it.

“‘I hope you have not made a mistake,’ she said to a man who called. ‘Perhaps you will find out, later, that I am not an A.R.A. after all.

“‘Artists have sent me telegrams and I have had all sorts of visitors, but I have “had nothing official, and really I do not care very much. My first thought is art. If I have been elected, I do not know if it will help women. If they can paint well enough, I suppose they will become members of the Academy. If it’s not in them, they won’t.’

“However, the old lady believed it all sufficiently to dress herself up to receive other visitors who called with congratulations.

“‘Here I am,’ she said, ‘with all my jewelry on.’ She had put on some old silver rings with red stones in them, and an old silver necklace from which a blue fish was hanging, and looked a real old fashioned Mid-Victorian, except that she was utterly indifferent to everything except her work.

“Times have changed since she was a girl student. Indeed, she was recalling yesterday the days when women were not even allowed to study in the Royal Academy school.

“She consented to be photographed with her latest painting, but she did not want to hold a palette or brush or make any fuss about it. This picture shows an old Italian woman holding her hands out with a background of hills. ‘Southing the Sun,’ I think she calls it. This, she has just finished. She is now at work on a painting which she has been doing at Newmarket, of two little children on a horse, coming through some foliage. She does all her work out of doors and finishes her pictures there.

“Mrs. Swynnerton is a Manchester woman, a breakaway from her family in talent, like most Manchester intellectuals are. Her father was a solicitor, and none of her relatives was an artist.” Another paper expresses the opinion that the purchase of a painting by Mrs. Swynnerton by John S. Sargent, who -presented it to the nation, probably had much to do with influencing the Royal Academy to elect Mrs. Swynnerton an Associate. The picture is “The Oreads,” which now hangs in the Tate Gallery. It is a remarkably fine nude study under brillient lighting.



Annie was granted a special solo exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery in honour of her election to the Royal Academy.

The Lord Mayor … in declaring the exhibition of her pictures open, said it was somewhat a reflection upon Manchester that he work had not been adequately represented here …

Mr. T. D. Barlow, on behalf of the Royal Manchester Institution, presented to Mrs. Swynnerton a brooch which had been made by the School of Art, a piece of co-operative craftsmanship in gold, silver, and enamel, in the design of which appeared the Manchester city arms, the initials “A.L.S.,” and the badge of the Lancashire rose.

Mrs. Swynnerton [said she] was glad to find so much of her husband’s work here, and so great an honour to him was a deep satisfaction to her.

The Guardian, 7 Jul 1923.

In addition to Mrs. Swynnerton’s paintings there will also be shown a few examples of Mr. Swynnerton’s statuary” (The Guardian, 30 June 1923).

The brooch presented to Annie (The Studio, vol. 87, p284 [the image was printed upsidedown in the original publication]).
The brooch the right way up. Note the ALS on the sail.

OCTOBERAnnie exhibited in New York alongside other ‘foreign women artists’ – “A private view of the thirty-third annual exhibition of the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors was given Tuesday Afternoon at the Fine Arts Galleries, 215 West Fifty-seventh Street … A feature of this year’s exhibition will be the group of paintings and other work by foreign women artists who were invited to take part in it … Valentine Reyre, Madeleine Gregoire and Marie Laurencin from France, Olga Boznanka from Poland, Emma Ciardi from Italy. Also the Brooklyn Museum has lent for the exhibition the painting, “A Dream of Italy,” by Annie Swynnerton” (Hartford Courant, 21 Oct 1923).

215 West 52nd St. today – The Art Students League of New York, an art school independent of the main national art institutions founded by students of the National Academy of Design in 1875.


APRIL – THE ATTIC CLUB, MANCHESTER. SOCIETY OF WOMEN ARTISTS.- EXHIBITION of PICTURES, SCULPTURE, & CRAFTWORK, at the College of Technology, Whitworth St.,Tues., April 2, to Sat., April 12, 11 a.m. to 8.30 p.m. Admission Free. (The Guardian, 2 Apr 1924.)

The Attic Club was active in Manchester in the 1920s and 1930s.


MARCHIsabel noted to be the president of ‘The Attic Club.’

“Wetherlam from Little Langdale,” by Miss S. Isabel Dacre, the President of the Attic Club, which holds its annual exhibition in Manchester next Week.

The Guardian, 21 Mar 1925.


From: Dickens and Daughter [1], by Gladys Storey (first published 1939):

Mrs. Swynnerton was extremely patriotic. After introducing her to Mrs. Randall (later Lady) Davidson at a private view at the Academy, that lady … mentioned that the Archbishop [2] was sitting for his portrait; Mrs. Swynnerton inquired who the artist was.

“Mr. de Lázló,” [3] replied our hostess.

“But he is a traitor!” vehemently declared Mrs. Swynnerton; “he was interned during the war. Why did not the Archbishop choose an English artist to paint his portrait?”

  • [1] Charles Dicken’s daughter, Catherine ‘Kate’ Perugini, was a friend of Annie.
  • [2] Randall Thomas Davidson, 1st Baron of Lambeth, Archbishop of Canterbury 1903-28.
  • [3] Philip de Lázló (1869-1937), Hungarian-born portrait artist who settled in London in 1907.
The incident would have occurred in 1926 or shortly before, as the portrait is dated 1926.


Photograph of Annie in The Illustrated London News, 7 May 1927.

JUNEIsabel‘s Italian Women in Church is presented to Manchester Art Gallery with a special ceremony honouring Isabel (now aged 83), but mentioning she couldn’t attend the event because of ‘fatigue’ …

MISS ISABEL DACRE. A notable tribute to the artist … A fitting tribute to the esteem in which Miss Isabel Dacre is held in art quarters has been paid by the purchase by a group of admirers of her picture “Italian Women in Church” and its presentation to the permanent collection of the Manchester Art Gallery. An address … has been delivered to Miss Dacre by Mr. Nicholls, president of the Manchester Academy of Fine Art; a course which was adopted owing to the artists’s inability to bear the fatigue of a ceremonial presentation … arrangements are being made to hold a special an representative exhibition of Miss Dacre‘s works in the autumn … The address, presented to Miss Dacre reads:- … a testimony to your genius … [signed by] Mr. Francis Dodd … Mr Allan Monkhouse … the Attic Club … Miss Fanny Sugars … Miss F. M. Monkhouse … Miss Mary McN. Wroe … Mrs. Annie L. Swynnerton[seventy-five other names].” (The Guardian, 18 Jun 1927.)

In the autumn of 1927, an exhibition of [Isabel‘s] work – along with that of two other artists – was hel in the Gallery, and gave Manchester people the the opportunity to appreciate her as a painter of landscapes. One of her Umbian landscapes is now hanging in the annual exhibition of the Manchester Academy … her Italian landscapes, which she began to produce in 1899, have a grave, serene, and intimate beauty not readily appraised by casual sketchers and tourists.(The Guardian, 21 Feb 1933.)


Photograph from an article (mainly on Laura Knight) in The Evening Independent newspaper, Massilon, Ohio, 13 Dec 1927. “… Mrs. Annie L. Swynnerton, now 82 years old … Mrs. Swynnerton still takes an active interest in the world of art and has a country studio. She began painting as a child and studied for a career. She is a member of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers. The best known of her pictures are “The Sense of Touch,” [error as in original article, should read … The Sense of Sight] in the Liverpool Gallery, and “St. Martin’s Summer.” She was represented in this year’s Academy showing by a landscape, “The Gulf of Spezia.”


Portrait of Annie L. Swynnerton by Gwenny Griffiths. (Manchester Art Gallery.)


Annie is photographed by Emil Otto Hoppé (1878-1972), a leading portrait, travel and documentary photographer of the early twentieth century.


< 1910s / 1930s >