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Sophie Gengembre Anderson: Account of Her Life & Paintings

Sophie Gengembre Anderson

The Children's Book Story by Sophie Gengembre Anderson | Source: Sophie Gengembre Anderson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The absolute dilemma of writing about any female artist starts with the trivial of two perspectives, one which completely foretells the feminist spirit and the other which gives a rough sketch of anti-feminism. In the giants of two opinionated viewpoints, I always try to be as neutral and direct with you as the mirror itself. However, one foremost factor which I always consider in favour of the feminist part is the fact that it was only in the 19th century that few institutes allowed women to educate themselves professionally in the artistic world. Before that, they were supposed to learn from the outside world, and very few entered the Royal Art Institute. In the nineteenth century, while the Watercolour Society of Ireland was primarily composed of women artists, the Dublin art club categorized women as “lady members”, and the New English Art Club exclusively comprised men. Hence, to conclude, there were two situations- one where women commanded the art institutes and the other when they struggled to keep their positions. However, even with these, when it came to art, they professed well in their career. And few women drastically became famous for their works, like Kauffman and Vigee Le Brun. There came one time when there was progressive growth of the collector who wanted to purchase women’s art. For instance, George Holt, George McCulloch, and Edmund Davies showed an exceptional willingness to snap up them. There was a significant advance in public patronage in Edinburgh thanks to Amelia Paton Hill’s statue of Favid Livingstone, described as “the first public work of the kind to be executed by a woman.” Comparably, the Liverpool Corporation purchased Elaine by Sophie Gengembre Anderson in 1871 and Sintran by Louisa Starr in 1873, the first public acquisition of women’s work. As women escalated a new movement of tenacious success in the nineteenth century, nearly eighty per cent of us do not know their famous artworks or even names. So, to celebrate their almighty art empire, I am here to introduce you to one of them. And yes, feminist or non-feminist, they inspire us as every artist does! Coming back to our article, let us talk about Sophie, the limelight of today’s art history.

Studying About the Life of the Artist.

Born in 1823 in Paris, Sophie Gengembre Anderson was the daughter of an architect and an English mother. We know very little about her early life, but one noteworthy point that you must know is that she showed remarkable resilience in creating her career, earning as an artist and becoming renowned in America, Britain and the Isle of Capri. Growing up mostly in France until the 1840s, she spent most of her time drawing and painting. When she was twenty, she studied briefly in the atelier of the history painter Baron Charles Auguste de Steuben. During the revolution of 1848, she left Paris with her parents to the USA, settling first in Cincinnati and then in Manchester, Pennsylvania. Sophie worked in the Louis Prang and Company, well-known for its chromolithographs of American popular images. In 1854, she married a British artist Walter Anderson and moved to Britain with him. They lived in different places like London, Dalston and Bramley, but in the late 1860s and early 1870s, they shifted for almost 20 years to live and work on the Isle of Capri due to ill health of Sophie. In the 1890s, Sophie returned to Britain and settled in Falmouth with her husband, continuing to paint and exhibit well as a septuagenarian. If we look closer at her life history, it was only after her marriage that Sopie gained productivity in her art, as Pamela Gerrish Nunn described.

Sophie Gengembre Anderson | Source: Artvee

Now that we know a little about her life; let us majorly move towards her artwork, which will briefly cover her life orderly.

NameSophie Gengembre Anderson
Birth1823, Paris
Died1903, Falmouth, Cornwall
Famous PaintingsElaine, No Walk Today
MasterBaron Charles Auguste de Steuben

Briefly Looking At Sophie Gengembre Anderson Art.

One of the best-known Sophie Gengembre Anderson paintings is Elaine. At the earliest, it was priced at 420 Pounds at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of 1870. It is more than a prestige that when the Liverpool public purse brought this painting in 1871, this Tennysonion literary interpretation became the first artwork to enter a civic gallery there. In this respect, Sophie became one of the few women artists who saw their paintings be part of the large municipal museums. Due to this outset, she became a celebrated artist and earned a degree of commercial success.

Elaine by Sophie Gengembre Anderson | Source: Walker Art Gallery, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sophie included naturalistic-warm colours tonnes in her composition with fine details of the tree branches and leaves. Every possible detailer makes the painting unique with a deep literary meaning. It is an adaptation of Lord Tennyson’s poem. Elaine, an innocent country girl who falls in love with Sir Lancelot, is the protagonist of the story. She dies from unrequited love after being abandoned by him in favour of Queen Guinevere. The picture depicts Elaine’s body being rown to Camelot by a servant. Sophie’s delicate moves in the painting, fine brushstrokes, and wise colour combination blend the artistic composition into such a realistic vision of the poem.

Further, the artist contributed Virgin and the Child in 1855 and other classical subject paintings to the Royal Academy. Some of her artworks, like Day of Rest, Nuggets, London Street Flowers and Roasting the Pine Cross, typically had narrative subjects.

London Street Flowers by Sophie Gengembre Anderson | Source: Artvee

During the enormous and long career of Sophie Gengembre Anderson, she exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York, the British Institution, the Royal Society of British Artists and the Grosvenor Gallery of London. She painted genre paintings and large-scale historical compositions with neoclassicism canvases, such as Song in 1881. Furthermore, she painted domestic scenes, like, No Walk Today and Guess Again. Most of her paintings of her are in private accession, and few among them are in British and American museums. After learning quite a bit about Anderson, let me show you two of her paintings and their speciality to be more precise.

Song by Sophie Gengembre Anderson | Source: Sophie Gengembre Anderson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
No Walk Today by Sophie Gengembre Anderson | Source: Sophie Gengembre Anderson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Guess Again by Sophie Gengembre Anderson | Source: Reproduction Gallery

The artist depicted seven Foundling girls in a chapel, out of which three stood out in a painting titled Foundling Girls at Prayer in Chapel. The expressions of all of them narrate a different kind of emotion and sentiment. For instance, the middle girl shows devotion while she handles the bible, reciting the prayer as she looks above at God, whereas the little girl is still innocently confused about the words of the book and is playful. And lastly, the third one on either side of the middle girl, holds and reads through the prayer as if it is customary to her daily ritual and belief. The artist successfully conveys all their emotions and expressions through impressive colours, strokes and natural depiction.

Foundling Girls at Prayer in Chapel by Sophie Gengembre Anderson | Source: Via Wikimedia Commons

In another painting, Dreaming Daisy, Sophie portrayed an innocent young-aged girl daydreaming with open eyes. The artist showcased a definite and accurate facial feature with eyes gazing up somewhere to depict the subject drowned in her dreams. She is seated on a green lawn, surrounded by a foggy and snowy landscape. Besides the flawless colour usage, her flower tiara completes the painting and makes her look exceptional.

Dreaming Daisy by Sophie Gengembre Anderson | Source: Via Wikiart

Final Words.

Sophie Gengembre Anderson was an excellent French-English artist who was more than an inspiration and did every right to the canvas and a single colour drop. In all of her paintings, Sophie paid attention to botanical details, as did many pre-Raphaelites. There is almost a photographic quality to many of her paintings as proof of her meticulous attention to detail.

In future, I am sure I will add up more artists like her, as for today, I hope you enjoyed your binge read!

Frequently Asked Questions.

Who was Sophie Gengembre Anderson?

Sophie Gengembre Anderson was a Birtish-French artist who painted genre scenes. Starting her career as a lithographer and a portraitist, she had an art style of Pre-Raphaelite painter and William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

What are the characteristics of Sophie Anderson’s paintings?

The accustomed characteristics of Sophie Anderson’s paintings are naturalistic-warm colours tonnes, lighter soft lines, and delicate moves of the brushstrokes. They combinedly form a realistic work under the Romanticism era.

What was the art style of Sophie Gengembre Anderson?

The art style of Sophie Gengembre Anderson’s paintings falls under Neoclassicism and Romanticism. As a result, the paintings showcase realism, with an emphasis on children’s and women’s portraits, as well as genre scenes.

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