A nicely written story that reminds us that in the 18th and nineteenth century (not to mention before) having a female name meant it was difficult to get published if you wrote a novel (looking forward to this next story in the series), or get accepted to have a showing if you were a painter, let alone accepted in the Royal Academy.
The Royal Academy is still prestigious for painters but perhaps less so than it used to be? Certainly, the Summer Show now incudes paintings that are perhaps rather on the twee side – that is to say, lots of paintings of puppies, (bunny) rabbits and kittens in the area for the ‘less professional’ artists.
But to become an Academician that is something else.
“There were several reasons for women’s exclusion from the institutional structures that provided entry to the art world. Women were simultaneously viewed as a threat—male artists hardly needed more competition in an already-crowded field—and as naturally inferior and incapable of creative genius. While it was useful for women to draw recreationally, or even to make a living with decorative china painting or other stereotypically feminine work, they were not taken seriously as professional artists.” [women-artists-in-paris-1850-1900-clark].
And as is mentioned in this article from Clark, most of them had to decamp to Paris to be recognised.
Indeed Christies’ says when considering female-artists-of-the-Victorian-era: ‘When one thinks of Victorian artists, it is generally the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and various Royal Academicians, who spring to mind,’ says Sarah Reynolds, Victorian Art specialist at Christie’s in London. ‘While images of women predominate their canvases, what is less known is that there was a group of highly talented female artists working alongside them and sharing ideas.
Traditionally these women have been viewed in relation to their male counterparts, implicitly seen as inferior to their famous husbands, fathers and brothers. But in recent years, they have begun to be recognised as talented pioneers in their own right.‘
I always like an historical novel that brings out, however unlikely, some of the issues around society and culture during the period in which it is set. Especially, being female as I am, if it looks at the constraints among women (and a lover of art). So this book hits the spot in that respect for me.
I also rather liked the characters and their families and enjoyed the basic storyline and the young nine year girl was certainly very astute for age, and this will have been a result of being encouraged to be so, by her family and especially her uncle.