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Annie Swynnerton's Art to Live

Words:

Edd Norval
March 8, 2019

In celebration of International Women's Day, many have chosen to look to the future. What changes could be made and how? But what about the past and who laid the foundations? Enter Annie Swynnerton, an often overlooked painter that sold paintings to provide for her family, before becoming one of the most celebrated female artists of her day.

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Born in 1844 in Manchester, Swynnerton spent much of her life in Rome with sculptor husband Joseph Swynnerton, as the pair engaged with classical forms exploring the symbolist and aesthetic values of human existence and beauty.


Swynnerton was an active supporter of female suffrage of the day, becoming close friends with the Pankhurst family. Notably outspoken, she wasn't afraid to break the mould of expectation in her time, indeed going on to become the first female member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1922.


Rome was clearly a crucial influence on her art as she was prominent in the symbolist and portrait movements alongside being a keen interpreter of landscapes. It was her deft artistic hand that helped her to sell her art and support her six sisters, one of whom, Emily, was also an artist.


Depicting mainly female figures, her subjects were often vaguely impressionistic, utilising tone and imagery to great allegorical effect. Her manner, art and stature at the time defied expectation of females and her outspoken support of the suffrage movement set her apart as a precursor to the many female artistic names being celebrated today.

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