Mary Moser – Founding Member of London’s Royal Academy

Mary Moser – Founding Member of London’s Royal Academy

Women in Art

Mary Moser (1744-1819) was “one of the most celebrated women in art in 18th-century Britain,” yet today she’s mostly overlooked.

Along with Angelica Kauffmann, Mary Moser was one of only two female founding members of 36 member Royal Academy.

It would be more than 115 years until the next woman, Dame Laura Knight, would be invited to become the next female member.

Mary Moser by George Romney

Moser specialised in flower-painting, which was at the bottom of the hierarchy of academic art, but she was ambitious for professional standing. In this portrait, which shows her at work on an oil painting, she is showing that she wanted to be taken seriously. Moser is placing herself on a par with men who had themselves painted at their easels, dressed in their painter’s robes. She shows that she understands it refers to a tradition of portraits of male artists dating back to the Renaissance.

At the time most male artists asserted their academic status by stressing the intellectual rather than the technical aspects of their work, the oil palette that Moser holds also distinguishes her from the many women amateurs who practised flower-painting using the less taxing medium of watercolour.

The close focus, dramatic colours and sidelong glance also emphasised that her professional status did not need to compromise her femininity.

Moser, Mary; Vase of Flowers; The Fitzwilliam Museum.

Moser’s flower paintings are less a celebration of the wonders of God’s creation as a careful observation of nature. Flowers were a favourite subject as far as consumers were concerned. London printsellers sold countless decorative flower prints, depicting them in baskets, vases, or tied in bouquets. Flower art was also used in pattern books providing templates for ladies to copy for embroidery or for glass painting. Drawings of flowers were also used for Japan work and were copied onto undecorated white china. By the latter part of the eighteenth century, drawing masters specialising in teaching this type of art were much in demand, and many women who had given up flower painting on their marriage found it a useful means of financial support, but it was always uncredited.

Due in part to her father’s connections and patronage by members of the royal family, Moser received several commissions from King George and Queen Charlotte. The most prestigious and famous of those commissions was a floral decorative scheme for the Frogmore House in the 1790s. The “prestigious and lucrative commission” Moser was paid £900, which made Moser “the envy of her male colleagues.” It was also one of her last professional works, as she retired upon her marriage in 1793.

She married remarkably late in life when she was 49 years old. The man she chose was Hugh Lloyd. However, she did not pack up her paint box and retire to the country. But the marriage did not live up to her expectations, and within six months she was on a sketching tour of Europe with miniaturist Richard Cosway.

Cosway left his Anglo-Italian artist wife Maria ho was 20 years Moser’s junior and chose to keep company with Moser. Cosway was a “well known as a libertine and commonly described as resembling a monkey.” The film Jefferson in Paris, which dramatises Maria Cosway’s own romance with the future American President Thomas Jefferson Richard Cosway was portrayed as effeminate, but it seems he was anything but in bed. His diary entries for the time he spent with Mary Moser describe a hot and steamy affair.

Richard Cosway – Self Portrait

Mary Moser’s death in 1819 marked the start of a long stretch of time when, despite no explicit ban, women remained excluded from the Academy.

Lady Elizabeth Butler, renowned at the time for her paintings that reported the realities of the Crimean War, came close to becoming a member in 1871 but according to committee reports, she missed out by a mere one vote.

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Lady Elizabeth ButlerIt wasn’t until 1936 that Dame Laura Knight became the next woman to be fully elected as an Academician, and although having previously had her work rejected by the Academy on grounds of embarrassing the art establishment with what a critic described as “vulgar” and “obviously an exercise” for a self-portrait, she helped pave the way for greater recognition of women in the arts and the continuation of female membership at the Academy.

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Dame Laura Knight

 

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle

Amazon. Click here to get your copy.

Sinclair is set in the London Borough of Southward, the Yorkshire town of Beverley and in Paris and Edinburgh in the late 1780s. Strong female leads include the widow Charlotte Leadam and the farmer’s daughter Lucy Leadam. Sinclair is a story of love, loss and redemption. Prodigal son James Sinclair is transformed by his experience of being shipwrecked on the way to India to make his fortune. Obstacles to love and happiness include ambition, conflict with a God, temptation and betrayal. Remorse brings restitution and recovery. Sinclair is an extraordinary book. It will immerse you in the world of 18th century London where the rich and the poor are treated with kindness and compassion by this passionate Scottish doctor and his widowed landlady, the owner of the apothecary shop in Tooley Street.  Sinclair is filled with twists and tragedies, but it will leave you feeling good.

 

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Against the Grain – 18th Century British Art

Maria Cosway the Artist who Captured the Heart of Thomas Jefferson

The Hipster, the Macaroni and the Fop – Who do Men Dress For?

The Hipster, the Macaroni and the Fop – Who do Men Dress For?

The Hipster, the Macaroni and the Fop

The emergence of the modern-day hipster is the antithesis of the 18th-century Macaroni, but they have some things in common.

Macaronis were fashionable fellows who dressed and even spoke in an outlandishly affected manner. The macaroni only wanted was new and expensive. They thrived on spending money on the most outlandish costumes and hair.

The term macaroni is a pejorative one and referred to a man who “exceeded the ordinary bounds of fashion” in terms of clothes, fastidious eating and gambling. It was used to describe young men who had been to Italy on the Grand Tour and developed a taste for maccaroni, a type of pasta little known in England then, and so they were said to belong to the Macaroni Club.

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Macaronis were the object of some savage British satire. In the Middlesex Journal for November 7th, 1772 Juventis commented on the use of the term macaroni: “If I consult the prints, ’tis a figure with something uncommon in its dress or appearance; if the ladies, an effeminate fop; but if the’ prentice-boys, a queer fellow with a great large tail.” Basically, this meant that the author thought if a woman looked at an illustration of a Macaroni, she would think she was looking at an effeminate dandy, while a working-class boy would say the man was a homosexual.

 

 

Hipster men, gay and straight, have made Retro their cool. The environment they say is precious to them, so they have turned their backs on the ‘the new’. The purloin their style from the racks of the Vintage shops choosing tweeds, corduroy and shirts made of cotton. Hipsters want to wear Sylvia Plath’s cardigans and Buddy Holly’s glasses because to be cool isn’t to look like a television star. They have beards and wear their hair in ponytails and buns revelling in the irony of making what was once nerdy cool. The only new thing Hipsters want is technology and coffee. These latter-day dandies wish to live hi-tech and sustainably; eat organic, gluten-free grains and preen their whiskers in the Edwardian style barbers shops.

Barber, Chair, Salon, Hairdresser, Shop, Beard, Male

Dandies appeared in the late 18th-century. Of course, both the dandy and the macaroni appear in the popular American Revolution song ‘Yanki-doodle-dandy’ the song that describes how an American colonist stuck a feather in his cap and called it Macaroni.

Napoleon and soldiering made ‘dandy’ a vogue word in the late 18th-century. Military men did not see themselves as men about town. Distinguishing a “dandy” from a “fop” was not difficult. The dandy was a rich, fashionable man about town, a man who could afford to copy the style of George Bryan “Beau” Brummell (1778–1840), in his early days, an undergraduate student at Oriel College, Oxford and later, an associate of the Prince Regent. The dandy’s dress was more refined and sober than the fop’s. The fop was a man of more modest means who made foolish and unfashionable choices about his wardrobe. The fop was a object of fun and was variously known as a coxcomb, a fribble, a popinjay (meaning ‘parrot’), a fashion-monger, or a ninny. He was the 18th-century equivalent of medallion man.

A 21st-century fop would be the hair-obsessed character Ulysses Everett McGill (played by George Clooney) in the Coen brothers film O Brother Where Art Thou (2001) and the character of Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp) in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. Depp’s style has been termed “grunge fop” because he has dreadlocks. The actor’s mannerisms caused concerns among executives at the Walt Disney Company Depp’s characterisation of Sparrow prevailed, thereby creating a new generation of fans of the fop.

Hipsters, dandies and fops are extremes in men’s fashion. It is often said that women do not dress for men but for other women. When we look at the history of men’s fashion, the hipster, the dandy and the fop seem to have no interest in the opposite sex, they like women are dressing to impress each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 and on Kindle.

Sinclair is available of Amazon. Click here to get your copy.

Sinclair is set in the London Borough of Southward, the Yorkshire town of Beverley and in Paris and Edinburgh in the late 1780s. Strong female leads include the widow Charlotte Leadam and the farmer’s daughter Lucy Leadam. Sinclair is a story of love, loss and redemption. Prodigal son James Sinclair is transformed by his experience of being shipwrecked on the way to India to make his fortune. Obstacles to love and happiness include ambition, conflict with a God, temptation and betrayal. Remorse brings restitution and recovery. Sinclair is an extraordinary book. It will immerse you in the world of 18th century London where the rich and the poor are treated with kindness and compassion by this passionate Scottish doctor and his widowed landlady, the owner of the apothecary shop in Tooley Street.  Sinclair is filled with twists and tragedies, but it will leave you feeling good.

Also available on:

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Coco, Blue Jeans and Fashion’s Glass Ceiling

Joshua Reynolds’ Muse Fanny Barton

Joshua Reynolds’ Muse Fanny Barton

Frances Barton or Frances “Fanny” Barton was the daughter of a private soldier and started her working life as a flower girl and a street singer. She performed in taverns and resorted to selling herself as many hard up women did in those days before she made it onto the stage. Her first step to success came when she got a job as a servant to a French milliner, there she learned about costume and acquired some French which afterwards stood her in good stead as she mingled in London’s high society.

Her first appearance on the stage was at Haymarket in 1755 as Miranda in Mrs Centlivre’s play, Busybody. Following that she became a member of the Drury Lane Company, where she was overshadowed by its more established actresses Hannah Pritchard and Kitty Clive. However she was ambitious and travelled to Ireland where she had her first major success Lady Townley in The Provok’d Husband by Vanbrugh and Cibber. She worked at her trade and five years late received an invitation from David Garrick to return to Drury Lane.

Fanny married her music teacher, James Abington, a royal trumpeter, in 1759. It was not a happy and the pair separated but she retained his name calling herself Mrs Abington. She remained at Drury Lane for eighteen years.

Mrs Abington as Miss Prue, Joshua Reynolds

Fanny played Mrs Teasel in Sheridan’s School for Scandal making the role her own. She also played Shakespearean heroines – Beatrice, Portia, Desdemona and Ophelia and the comic characters  Miss Hoyden, Biddy Tipkin, Lucy Lockit and Miss Prue. Mrs. Abington’s Kitty in “High Life Below Stairs” put her in the foremost rank of comic actresses, making the mop cap she wore in the role the reigning fashion“. This cap was soon referred to as the “Abington Cap” and frequently seen on stage as well as in hat shops across Ireland and England. Adoring fans donned copies of this cap and it became an essential part of the well-appointed woman’s wardrobe. The actress soon became known for her avant-garde fashion and she even came up with a way of making the female figure appear taller. She began to wear a tall-hat called a ziggurat adorned with long flowing feathers and began to follow the French custom of putting red powder on her hair.

An example of Fanny’s influence on fashion – the high ziggurat style hat.

Sir Joshua Reynolds painted her as Miss Prue a character from Congreve’s Love for Love. The portrait is the the best-known of his half-dozen or more portraits of her. In 1782 she left Drury Lane for Covent Garden. After an absence from the stage from 1790 until 1797, she reappeared, quitting it finally in 1799. Her ambition, personal wit and cleverness won her a distinguished position in society, in spite of her humble origin.

Source; Wikipedia

Illustrations: Fanny Abington, Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of Marie-Dauncey,1789, James-Northcote, Fanny as Miss Prue, Joshua Reynolds.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29  Also available on:

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Mary Wollstonecraft’s Friends

Mary Wollstonecraft’s Friends

Mary Wollstonecraft was born on 27 April 1759 she is one of the world’s first feminist writers.

Wollstonecraft decided to become a writer in 1787, 230 years ago, when she moved to 45 George Street, in Southwark, now called Dolben Street. It was from Dolben Street[1]  that she launched her career, with the publication of her novel, Mary: A Fiction or Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman is a philosophical and gothic novel that revolves around the story of a woman imprisoned in an insane asylum by her husband. The story focuses on the societal rather than the individual “wrongs of woman” and criticises what Wollstonecraft viewed as the patriarchal institution of marriage in eighteenth-century Britain and the legal system that protected it. However, the heroine’s inability to relinquish her romantic fantasies also reveals women’s collusion in their oppression through false and damaging sentimentalism. The novel pioneered the celebration of female sexuality and cross-class identification between women. Such themes, coupled with the publication of Godwin’s scandalous Memoirs of Wollstonecraft’s life, made the novel unpopular at the time it was published.

Two friendships shaped Wollstonecraft’s early life. The first was with Jane Arden. At the age of nine Wollstonecraft was taken to a farm near Beverley in Yorkshire with her brothers and sisters. They lived a wild life, roaming around the flat land of the Humber estuary until her father took a house in the town opposite the Minster. It was in Beverley she met Jane Arden. Life in Beverley was remarkably civilised, there was a theatre, dances at the Assembly Rooms and a race course with a spring meeting that co-inside with the Spring Fair. Part of my own novel Sinclair is set in Beverley.

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Beverley, Yorkshire

The girls frequently read books together and attended lectures presented by Arden’s father, a self-styled philosopher and scientist. John Arden was the descendant of the playwright Arden of Faversham but was disinherited by his family, and forced to set himself up as a roving teacher of practical mathematics and experimental philosophy. After a spell in Germany, he settled in Bath for a while where he became a founder member of the Bath Philosophical Society. Then moved onto Derby where he made friends with the artist Joseph Wright. Wright painted him as the Philosopher in his work entitled: A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery, or the full title, A Philosopher giving a Lecture on the Orrery in which a lamp is put in the place of the sun, in 1766.

 

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The Orrery, Joseph Wright of Derby – Derby Museum and Art Gallery

The Orrery, which now hangs in the Derby Museum, caused a sensation at the time because it replaced a classical motif with a scientific one. In this picture, Wright replaces the awe inspired by God with the wonder of science.  [John Arden – The Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery, iOpening Books 2016.]

 

 

 

At fourteen Wollstonecraft revelled in the intellectual atmosphere of the Arden household and valued her friendship with Jane Arden greatly, sometimes to the point of being emotionally possessive. Wollstonecraft wrote to her: “I have formed romantic notions of friendship … I am a little singular in my thoughts of love and friendship; I must have the first place or none.” In some of Wollstonecraft’s letters to Arden, she reveals the volatile and depressive emotions that would haunt her throughout her life. Mary’s crush for Jane ended badly, in quarrel spiked with jealousy and rage.

Her second and more important friendship was with Fanny (Frances) Blood, who was introduced to Wollstonecraft by the Clares, an elderly couple from Hoxton who became parental figures to her. Mr Clare was a retired clergyman with a taste for poetry, and Mrs Clare encouraged Mary’s reading, providing her with copies of Milton, Shakespeare, Pope and Johnson. Like Fanny, Mary learned the accomplishments expected of a middle-class woman from Mrs Clare – sewing, drawing and letter writing. Above all, she learned to be feminine and neat.

Unhappy with her home life, Wollstonecraft struck out on her own in 1778 and accepted a job as a lady’s companion to Sarah Dawson, a widow living in Bath. However, Wollstonecraft had trouble getting along with the irascible woman (an experience she drew on when describing the drawbacks of such a position in Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, 1787).

In 1780 she returned home because she was called back to care for her dying mother. Rather than return to Mrs Dawson’s employ after the death of her mother, Wollstonecraft moved in with the Bloods.

Fanny Blood was paid by the botanist William Curtis to paint wildflowers for his book Flora Londinensis. When Mary was living with the Bloods Fanny became engaged to Hugh Skeys, but the pair could not marry immediately and Skeys was forced to go the sea to finance the marriage. Fanny’s brother Lieutenant George Blood (1762–1844), became good friends with Mary so much so that William Godwin, Mary’s husband wrote that Mary had “contracted a friendship so fervent, as for years to have constituted the ruling passion of her mind”.

Blood, together with Mary Wollstonecraft and Wollstonecraft’s sisters, Eliza and Everina, opened a school first in Islington, which soon failed, and then in Newington Green. The school was combined with a boarding house for women and their children.

On February 24, 1785, Fanny Blood married Hugh Skeys who had made himself into a successful wine merchant based in Dublin. When Blood married and left the school, Wollstonecraft left too, and so their other school failed.

Fanny died in childbirth in Lisbon, Portugal, on November 29, 1785. Wollstonecraft was deeply affected by Blood’s death and in part inspired her first novel, Mary: A Fiction in 1788. She also named her own daughter, Fanny Imlay (1794–1816), after her friend.Frances “Fanny” Imlay was Mary’s daughter by the American commercial speculator and diplomat Gilbert Imlay. The pair never married and when Mary died Fanny remained part of the family of the man her mother had married, William Godwin. She was born in Le Havre in 1794 as the French Revolution took hold. Her half-sister Claire Clairmont would become Byron’s lover and her sister by Godwin would elope with the poet Shelley and write the gothic novel Frankenstein.

In later years, Mary realised during the two years she spent with the Blood family she had idealised Fanny as a woman like herself, fiercely independent and intellectual but Fanny was not like Mary, she wanted to be a wife and a mother more than a revolutionary. Nevertheless, Mary loved the Bloods and remained dedicated to them throughout her life. Wollstonecraft had envisioned living in a female utopia with Blood; they made plans to rent rooms together and to support each other emotionally and financially, but this dream come to nothing. The weight of economic reality and social conformity as well as  being women in what was to all intents and purposes a world designed and run by men for men made their dream impossible to fulfil.

Mary followed the publication of Mary: A Fiction, with works on the education of children. Her own experience of motherhood forcing her to reconsider her views on women and children.

Through her association with her friend and publisher Joseph Johnson, she met Thomas Paine, the writer of The Rights of Man. Paine who would become one of the great influencers of the both the French Revolution and the development of the American state opposed the idea of hereditary government and the belief that dictatorial government is necessary, because of man’s corrupt nature. She also met her future husband and one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement William Godwin through Johnson. The first time Godwin and Wollstonecraft met, they were both disappointed in each other. Godwin had come to hear Paine, but Wollstonecraft assailed him all night long, disagreeing with him on nearly every subject.

It was after she left Dolben Street in 1791 that she published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). There is no doubt that her time at Dolben Street, Southwark was the furnace of her intellectual development, and was the site of her most intensely creative years.

For more information on Wollstonecraft see: https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/keywords/mary-wollstonecraft

 

Notes:

[1] George Street was formed circa 1776 and the houses on either side were completed and tenanted by 1780 when the street name first occurs in the sewer rate books. It was built across the open fields shown as “tenter grounds” on Rocque’s maps, on part of what became known as Brown’s Estate. The formation of George Street was part of the rapid development of the area which followed the erection of Blackfriars Bridge. The street was renamed Dolben Street in 1911 in honour of John Dolben (1625–86), Archbishop of York, who in 1671, when Bishop of Rochester, officiated at the consecration of Christ Church. Throughout the period that these houses are shown in the rate books and directories they have been occupied by small tradesmen, chandlers, bakers, etc., and by artisans. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol22/pp127-128

Southwark was the location of several London prisons, including those of the Crown or Prerogative Courts, the Marshalsea and King’s Bench prisons, those of the local manors’ courts, e.g., Borough Compter, The Clink and the Surrey county gaol originally housed at the White Lion Inn (also informally called the Borough Gaol) and eventually at Horsemonger Lane Gaol.

One local family of note, was the Harvards. John Harvard went to the local parish free school of St Saviour’s and on to Cambridge University. He migrated to the Massachusetts Colony and left his library and the residue of his will to the new college there, named after him as its first benefactor. Harvard University maintains a link, having paid for a memorial chapel within Southwark Cathedral (his family’s parish church).

Sources:The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft By Claire Tomalin, Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination by Barbara Taylor,  & Wikipedia

My own novel, Sinclair takes place in Southwark and Beverley.

Julia Herdman is a novelist. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1 is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 on Kindle

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Byron’s Daughters – A Tale of Three Sisters

Madame Staël – A woman who abored all that was tyrannical, cynical, or passionless

The London Earthquake

The London Earthquake

On the 8th of March, 1750, an earthquake shook London. The shock was at half past five in the morning. It awoke people from their sleep and frightened them out of their houses. A servant maid in Charterhouse-square, was thrown from her bed, and had her arm broken; bells in several steeples were struck by the chime hammers; great stones were thrown from the new spire of Westminster Abbey; dogs howled in uncommon tones; and fish jumped half a yard above the water. London had experienced a shock only a month before, namely, on the 8th of February 1750, between 12 and 1 o’clock in the day and at Westminster, the barristers were so alarmed that they imagined the hall was falling!

Most people (including academics) saw the tremors as the work of God. However, The Gentleman’s Magazine, (founded by Edward Cave, alias ‘Sylvanus Urban’, in 1731) which was interested in everything, told its readers that there were three kinds of earthquake; the ‘Inclination’, which was a vibration from side to side, the ‘Pulsation’, up and down, and the ‘Tremor’, “when it shakes and quivers every way like a flame.” Scholars were agreed that the origins of earthquakes were to be found in the underground voids with which the earth was believed to be honeycombed, especially in mountainous regions; but whether it was the surges of air, water or fire within these caverns that were the actual cause of the shock was still disputed.

Despite only the minor damage, Londoners were worried. One earthquake was remarkable, but two earthquakes in a month was unprecedented. Were they a warning from God? Thomas Sherlock, the Bishop of London, was sure of it. In a letter to the clergy and inhabitants of London, he called on them to “give attention to all the warnings which God in his mercy affords to a sinful people…by two great shocks of an Earthquake”. He pointed out that the shocks were confined to London and its environs, and were therefore ‘immediately directed’ at that city.

On Sunday, March 18, at about 6 pm, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight were shaken, and, as they trembled, the air vibrated to a noise like the firing of great guns. The shock was even felt, though faintly, at Bath. On Monday, April 2, at about 10 pm, Liverpool and an area about 40 miles round vibrated to ‘a smart shock of an earthquake’ for two or three seconds.
1750 was a year when the earth trembled up and down the land. The weather was also considered freakish. People lived in trepidation waiting for the next catastrophe.

The last, and strongest, English earthquake of 1750 shook Northamptonshire and several other counties, just after noon on September 30. It was ‘much stronger than that felt in London”, and lasted nearly a minute. Part of an old wall in Northampton was thrown down, a lady in Kelmarsh was tossed from her chair, and all over the shaken district people ran into the street. At Leicester, a rushing noise was heard, and the houses heaved up and down. The convulsion caused terror, but passed off with only the loss of some slates, chimney parts, and a few items of glassware. Near Leicester, an unfortunate child was shaken out of a chair into a fire, and was ‘somewhat burnt’.

Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1 is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29

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