Friday, June 24, 2011

The Turtle Dove Small

Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1823 – 10 March 1903) was a French-born British artist who specialized in genre painting of children and women, typically in rural settings. Her work is loosely associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

Sophie was born in Paris, the daughter of Charles Gengembre, an architect, and his English wife. She had two brothers, Philip and Henry P. She was largely self-taught in art, but briefly studied portraiture with Charles de Steuben in Paris in 1843. The family left France for the United States to escape the 1848 revolution, first settling in Cincinnati, Ohio, then Manchester, Pennsylvania, where she met and married British genre artist Walter Anderson.

In the USA, Anderson initially worked in portraiture, including work for the chromolithographers Louis Prang & Co. In 1854 the Andersons moved to London, where Sophie exhibited her works at the Royal Academy. They returned to New York in 1858, and then settled in London again around 1863. In 1871, they moved to the island of Capri for health reasons, but Sophie continued to send her work back to London for exhibitions. They returned permanently to England in 1894, settling in Falmouth, Cornwall.

Anderson's work was widely exhibited at venues including the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA), the British Institution, Grosvenor Gallery (1878-87) and many regional galleries in England. She also exhibited in the USA at the Pittsburgh Artists Association and the National Academy of Design, New York. Her early works showed strong attention to botanical and other detail, in common with the Pre-Raphaelites.

She died at home in Falmouth, Cornwall in 1903. Her husband Walter died in the same year. Her brother Henry P. Gengembre (b. 1825) was also an artist, active in Cincinnati in the early 1850s.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mr and Mrs Andrews

Mr and Mrs Andrews (1750) is an oil painting by British artist Thomas Gainsborough. The artist was in his early twenties when he painted this canvas, which combines the two genres in which he specialized – portraiture and landscape. By his own account, he preferred the latter. The twenty-two-year-old Robert Andrews married sixteen-year-old Frances Carter in November 1748 and Gainsborough made this portrait of them shortly after the wedding. The couple is shown in front of a stout oak tree – the husband standing and the wife sitting. A real, sprawling landscape stretches out behind them: everything here is unmistakably English.
It was purchased in 1960 by the National Gallery, London, with contributions from the Pilgrim Trust, The Art Fund, Associated Television Ltd, and Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Spooner. It is an oil painting, on canvas, and measures 69.8 by 119.4 cm


Robert Andrews cradles his shotgun under his arm as his dog looks up at him. He stands proudly in the middle of his huge estate, which had just become even more extensive thanks to his marriage. His outlook is aloof yet businesslike. Frances Carter is sitting on a wooden Rococo bench. Her satin dress shows Gainsborough at his best, while it also reveals strong Rococo elements. The extent of Van Duck’s continued influence on English portraiture can be seen through the capturing of fabrics in paint. The play of light, movement and the choice of the other colors make the light blue of the informal hunting dress spring to life. Her pose might have been lifted straight from a book of etiquette. Both sitters gaze coolly at the spectator. The oak tree in front of which they stand has several connotations beyond the choice of location: stability and continuity, and a sense of successive generations taking over the family business. The landed gentry had even been contemporaneously compared to the oak, holding Britain together.

An area in the woman’s lap has been left unfinished for an unknown reason. Maybe it was reserved for a child’s portrait, or for a book, or even a dead game-bird. Our eyes are drawn from a fertile field with recently harvested golden sheaves of corn to meadows of grazing sheep, a stand of trees and the hills in the distance. These suggest that the work for the painting was done in late summer, 1749. The fertility on view within the field, and the young tree growing between two others can both be considered a reflection on the newly-married couple in the foreground.

The clouds touch the land at the horizon. The enclosure of the sheep was a recent development – livestock had previously wandered about freely and the neat parallel rows of corn produced by Jethro Tull's revolutionary and controversial seed drill show that this is a thoroughly modern and efficient farm. Andrew’s estate, Auberies, is sited in Bulmer Tye, North Essex, and just a few miles across the county border from Gainsborough’s native county of Suffolk. The small tower in the left background of the piece is St. Peters Church in Sudbury. The church in the middle of the piece is that of All Saints, Little Cornard, very close to Gainsborough's hometown of Sudbury. The oak tree is still extant, though considerably larger.