Annie Swynnerton

Annie Louisa Robinson Swynnerton ARA (26 February 1844 – 24 October 1933) was a British painter best known for her portrait and symbolist works, but who was also a capable landscapist.[1] She studied at Manchester School of Art, Académie Julian, and in Rome. Swynnerton was influenced by George Frederic Watts and Edward Burne-Jones. John Singer Sargent appreciated her work and helped her to become the first elected woman member at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1922. Swynnerton painted portraits of Henry James and Millicent Fawcett. Her works are in collections in the England, Scotland, and abroad. She was married to sculptor Joseph Swynnerton. They lived together in Rome. Swynnerton was a close friend of leading suffragists of the day, notably the Pankhurst family.

Annie Louisa Robinson Swynnerton
Annie Swinnerton.jpg
Annie Swynnerton in 1931
Annie Louisa Robinson

(1844-02-26)26 February 1844
Hulme, Manchester, England
Died24 October 1933(1933-10-24) (aged 89)
EducationManchester School of Art, Académie Julian
Spouse(s)Joseph Swynnerton

Early lifeEdit

Annie Louisa Robinson was born in Hulme, Manchester in 1844.[2][a] Her parents were Francis Robinson, a solicitor, and Ann Sanderson.[2] Swynnerton had six sisters. She made and sold watercolours to supplement the family's income during a difficult financial period.[6] Emily, her sister, was also an artist.[4]


Swynnerton trained at the Manchester School of Art, beginning in 1871. She won a gold prize and a scholarship for an oil and watercolour painting.[2] From 1874 to 1876, she took art lessons in Rome along with her friend and fellow artist, Susan Isabel Dacre (born in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, but who later moved to Greater Manchester). The women then studied at the Académie Julian in Paris from 1877 to 1880.[2][6] Swynnerton was influenced by the works of Jules Bastien-Lepage.[2] She lived in Manchester in 1880 and by 1882 was living in London.[6]



Swynnerton painted portraits, figures, symbolist works and landscapes.[4] George Frederic Watts and Edward Burne-Jones were supporters of her career.[7] According to Linda Murray, "She was much influenced by Watts, and many of her subjects were of the allegorical or symbolic type which was his forte. Her drawing was solid, and she had a sculptural grasp of form allied to fresh, broken colour displaying affinities with Impressionism."[7] An example of one of her allegorical works is The Sense of Sight, which depicts an earth-visiting angel who finds and connects to heaven using her vision.[8] The catalogue for the Tate exhibition "Exposed. The Victorian Nude" states that "Rome based Annie Swynnerton was one of the most daring female painters of the nude, often shocking audiences with her robustly painted figures".[9]

Swynnerton's works incorporated aspects of Neoclassicism, Pre-Raphaelitism and Impressionism.[2] The Magazine of Art described one of her works, "[A] highly imaginative design by [Swynnerton] is Mater Triumphalis. The limbs of the figure are somewhat heavy in outline, whilst there is a certain metallic appearance in the colouring that is quite apart from the idea of the flowing life-blood in a human body."[10] She was also adept at painting children.[7]


Dacre and Swynnerton shared a studio. In 1879, the two women founded the Manchester Society of Women Painters, which offered art education and exhibitions. Emily Robinson was also a member. Swynnerton painted Dacre's portrait, which was exhibited in 1880 at the Royal Academy of Arts.[4] It was then given to the Manchester Art Gallery.[6] She was the second woman to sit on the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition hanging committee in 1895.[4]

Swynnerton painted portraits of members of the Garrett family, including Agnes (1885); Louisa, a member of the Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage;[6] Millicent Garrett Fawcett, which was purchased by the Chantrey Bequest for the nation and is at the Tate Gallery;[6][11] and Louisa Garrett Anderson. She painted portraits of people close to the Garretts, including Henry James and Rev. William Gaskell, husband of novelist Elizabeth Gaskell.[6] Ethel Smyth was a patron to Swynnerton. John Singer Sargent made a painting of Swynnerton and Smyth's sister, Mrs. Charles Hunter.[6]

With an initial introduction by Burne-Jones,[2] Swynnerton exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1879 to 1886 and then 1902 to 1934.[4] John Singer Sargent appreciated and purchased her work. He gave the nation The Oreads made by Swynnerton.[7] He was instrumental in her election in 1922[6] to become the first female associate of the Royal Academy since the 18th century[2] and the first woman to be elected into the organisation.[12][b] Swynnerton's work was also exhibited at other national and international exhibitions, including Aberdeen, Doncaster, Huddersfield, Manchester, and Chicago and Pittsburgh.[4] In 1893, Florence Nightingale at Scutari was shown at Women's Exhibition at the Chicago World's Exposition.[4][6] According to Hellary Fraser, author of Women Writing Art History in the Nineteenth Century, the work showed the manner with which women artists could convey tender feeling with strong artistic composition and colour.[14] Swynnerton was included in the 2018 exhibit Women in Paris 1850–1900.[15]


She was an active supporter of the women's suffrage movement of the time,[16] and was a signatory to the 1889 National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies' Declaration in Favour of Women's Suffrage.[6] She was not a 'feminist' in the modern sense, or an active suffragette, although clearly supported these causes by her involvement with the Pankhursts and the Declaration.

Personal lifeEdit

She met sculptor Joseph William Swynnerton, from the Isle of Man, possibly while the two were both living in Rome. They married in 1883[6][7][c] and lived primarily in Rome[4][7] and had a studio in Sheppard's Bush in London. The Swynnertons were married until 1910, when he died.[2][4][7]

Swynnerton's eyesight deteriorated in her later years.[12] Following her husband's death, she lived in Chelsea, London and Rome, before finally settling on Hayling Island, England.[4][7] She died there in 1933.[2] There was a posthumous sale of the contents of her former studio, removed from 1A The Avenue, 76 Fulham Road, London, SW3 at Christie's in London on 9 February 1934.[17] This included her own work (both finished and unfinished), her small collection of pictures by Old Masters (including Guercino and Moroni) together with frames and easels. In her will, and in memory of Susan Isabel Dacre, she left a bequest to Francis Dodd, an artist.[6]

Swynnerton was described as follows:

She was a talented artist and an accomplished woman, though scarcely one of whom it could be said she possessed a charm of manner. Indeed, by maintaining the courage of her convictions she was at times embarrassingly outspoken. She had a slight stutter.

— Gladys Storey, Dickens and Daughter[18]


Collection Location Works
Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Aberdeen, Scotland
  • Landscape with Trees[19]
Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology Oxford, England
  • Head of a Bacchante[20]
Birmingham Museums Trust Birmingham, England
Bradford Museums and Galleries Bradford, England
Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries Brighton, England
  • Girl with a Lamb[23]
Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum Cheltenham, England
  • Oil Sketch of a Pony[24]
Gallery Oldham Oldham, England
  • Cupid and Psyche[25]
Glasgow Museums Glasgow, Scotland
  • A Dryad[26]
  • The Soul's Journey: The Soul's Awakening[27]
Manchester Art Gallery Manchester, England[7]
  • Adoration of the Infant Christ (after Perugino)[28]
  • An Italian Mother and Child[29]
  • Crossing the Stream[30]
  • S. Isabel Dacre[31]
  • The Dreamer[32]
  • Reverend William Gaskell[33]
  • Illusions[34]
  • Interior of San Miniato, Florence[35]
  • Italian Landscape[36]
  • Montagna Mia[37]
  • The Olive Gatherers[38]
  • Rain Clouds, Monte Gennaro[39]
  • Mrs A. Scott-Elliot and Children[40]
  • The Southing of the Sun[41]
  • The Town of Siena[42]
  • The Vagrant[43]
Metropolitan Museum of Art New York City
  • Dream of Italy, owned by the museum in 1933[7][44]
Musée d'Orsay Paris, France
  • Mater Triumphalis[45]
National Gallery of Victoria Melbourne, Australia
National Museums Liverpool Liverpool, England
  • The Sense of Sight[47]
Nottingham City Museums and Galleries Nottingham, England
  • Mrs Florence H. Musgrave[48]
Royal Academy of Arts London, England
Royal Holloway, University of London London, England
  • Geoffrey and Christopher Herringham[50]
Salford Museum & Art Gallery Salford, England
Tate Gallery London, England
  • The Convalescent[52]
  • Count Zouboff[53]
  • Dame Millicent Fawcett, CBE, LLD[54]
  • Miss Elizabeth Williamson on a Pony[55]
  • New Risen Hope[56]
  • Oreads[57]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Her birth record shows that she was born in the Chorlton registration district (Hulme was in that district).[3] Her place of birth is also given as Kersal[4] and Salford.[5]
  2. ^ Two founding members of the Royal Academy of the Arts in 1768 were Mary Moser and Angelica Kauffman, but women could not attend life classes or hold office. Women were discouraged from studying at the school following Moser and Kauffman's deaths.[13] The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says that Swynnerton was the first woman since the 1800s to become an associate.[2] The Royal Academy of Arts site say that she's the first woman to be elected into the organisation (Moser and Kauffman were co-founders).[12] Laura Knight also became an associate member in the 1920s and became the first woman to become a full member in 1936.[13]
  3. ^ Gray says that they were married about 1886.[4]
  4. ^ New-risen Hope at National Gallery of Victoria is a different version of the same theme as the New Risen Hope at Tate.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Swynnerton [née Robinson], Annie Louisa (1844–1933)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/60287. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ "Search: Annie Robinson – birth 1844". FindMyPast. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Sara Gray (2009). "Annie Louisa Swynnerton". The Dictionary of British Women Artists. Casemate Publishers. pp. 255–256. ISBN 978-0-7188-3084-7.
  5. ^ Terry Wyke; Harry Cocks (1 January 2004). Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester. Liverpool University Press. p. 461. ISBN 978-0-85323-567-5.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Elizabeth Crawford (2 September 2003). The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866–1928. Routledge. p. 669. ISBN 1-135-43402-6.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Cathy Hartley (15 April 2013). Historical Dictionary of British Women. Routledge. p. 418. ISBN 978-1-135-35533-3.
  8. ^ "Making their mark.(Features)". Daily Post. Liverpool, England: MGN Ltd. 18 July 2007. Archived from the original on 29 March 2015. Retrieved 20 November 2014 – via HighBeam Research.
  9. ^ Exposed. The Victorian Nude. Tate Publishing 2001.
  10. ^ Marion Harry Spiellmann (1892). The Magazine of Art. Cassell, Petter & Galpin. p. 295.
  11. ^ Susan P. Casteras; Colleen Denney (1 January 1996). The Grosvenor Gallery: A Palace of Art in Victorian England. Yale Center for British Art. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-300-06752-1.
  12. ^ a b c "Annie Swynnerton, A.R.A". Royal Academy of Arts. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  13. ^ a b Julia M. Gergits (1 January 1999). "Royal Academy of Arts". In Helen Tierney (ed.). Women's Studies Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 1236, 1237. ISBN 978-0-313-31073-7.
  14. ^ Hilary Fraser (4 September 2014). Women Writing Art History in the Nineteenth Century: Looking Like a Woman. Cambridge University Press. p. 172. ISBN 978-1-316-06209-8.
  15. ^ Madeline, Laurence (2017). Women artists in Paris, 1850-1900. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300223934.
  16. ^ Elizabeth Crawford, The Women's Suffrage Movement, London, Routledge, 2001; p. 669.
  17. ^ Christie's, London, 9 February 1934, lots 56–179A.
  18. ^ Gladys Storey (1939). Dickens and Daughter. New York: Haskell House Publishers. p. 200. LCCN 79-164657.
  19. ^ "Landscape with Trees". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  20. ^ "Head of a Bacchante". Art UK. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  21. ^ "Assisi". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  22. ^ "Oceanid". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  23. ^ "Girl with a Lamb". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  24. ^ "Oil Sketch of a Pony". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  25. ^ "Cupid and Psyche". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  26. ^ "A Dryad". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  27. ^ "The Soul's Journey: The Soul's Awakening". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  28. ^ "Adoration of the Infant Christ". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  29. ^ "An Italian Mother and Child". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  30. ^ "Crossing the Stream". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  31. ^ "S. Isabel Dacre". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  32. ^ "The Dreamer". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  33. ^ "Reverend William Gaskell". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  34. ^ "Illusions". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  35. ^ "Interior of San Miniato, Florence". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  36. ^ "Italian Landscape". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  37. ^ "Montagna Mia". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  38. ^ "The Olive Gatherers". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  39. ^ "Rain Clouds, Monte Gennaro". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  40. ^ "Mrs A. Scott-Elliot and Children". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  41. ^ "The Southing of the Sun". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  42. ^ "The Town of Siena". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  43. ^ "The Vagrant". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  44. ^ Arts Magazine. 8. Art Digest Incorporated. 1933. p. 19.
  45. ^ "Mater Triumphalis". Musée d'Orsay. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  46. ^ "New-risen hope". Melbourne, Australia: National Gallery of Victoria. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  47. ^ "The Sense of Sight". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  48. ^ "Mrs Florence H. Musgrave". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  49. ^ "The Letter". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  50. ^ "Geoffrey and Christopher Herringham". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  51. ^ "Tryst". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  52. ^ "The Convalescent". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  53. ^ "Count Zouboff". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  54. ^ "Dame Millicent Fawcett, CBE, LLD". Your Paintings. BBC. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  55. ^ "Miss Elizabeth Williamson on a Pony". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  56. ^ "New Risen Hope". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
  57. ^ "Oreads". Your Paintings. BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2014.

Further readingEdit

  • Thomson, Susan. Manchester's Victorian Art Scene And Its Unrecognised Artists , Manchester Art Press, 2007 ISBN 978-0-9554619-0-3
  • Thomson, Susan. The Life and Works of Annie Louisa Swynnerton , Manchester Art Press, 2018 ISBN 978-0-9554619-3-4

External linksEdit