April 26, 2011

Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale 1871-1945

The Deceitfulness of Riches 1901

Uninvited Guest
Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale was the daughter of the successful barrister Matthew Inglett Fortescue-Brickdale. Her mother Sarah Anna was the daughter of a judge. As was typical for middle class girls at the time Eleanor was educated at home. 

The Pale Complexion of True Love 1899

She demonstrated a skill for drawing at an early age. She became an admirer and pupil of the famous art critic John Ruskin. At the age of seventeen Fortescue Brickdale decided to become a professional artist and studied at the Crystal Palace School of Art. After three attempts to enter the Royal Academy of Art she finally succeeded in 1897 and won a prize for a mural design. Fortescue Brickdale's success as both an oil painter of history themes and an illustrator of texts such as Tennyson's 'Poems' was more of an exception than the rule for women artists at this time.

Youth and the Lady

Art education for women in the 19th century was still restricted. The Royal Academy, founded in 1768, refused access to women artists until 1860 when Laura Herford became the first woman artist to enter the Academy. Even when women were admitted they were treated unequally to men. It took another thirty years before women were allowed to attend life-drawing classes. Many of the women who succeed as artists were related to male artists. Christina Rossetti, for example, was the sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti while Henrietta Rae, Marianne Stokes, Sophie Anderson and Elizabeth Forbes were all wives of famous artists. In other cases the reason for women's success was the support and encouragement of male artists, for example Elizabeth Siddall by her lover Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Maria Spartali by Ford Madox Brown. Most of the women artists also came from wealthy and well-educated families.

Vivianne and Merlin

The work of women artists was less favoured than that of men by art critics as well as collectors, with a few exceptions. Women artists were often expected to produce a certain type of work, for example still lifes or watercolours, while criticism of their work reflected stereotypes of women as being sentimental rather than intellectual beings. Despite this overall trend, Eleanor's work was highly praised at the time by both critics and fellow artists. The Victorian artist G. F. Watts admired her paintings so much that he was quoted as saying: "I feel inclined to throw away my palette and brushes. What are my things by the side of such stuff as hers?"

Guinevere in Golden Days


The Rose