Axel Waldemar Gallén (Akseli Gallén-Kallela). Part 2. Marriage, Aino, Kalevala and that Lake.

Axel Gallén in his studio (ca.1905)

Finnish nationalism as far as language was concerned became prominent in the nineteenth century and was a consequence of the dominance of the Swedish language in Finland’s cultural and political life. With the Russian conquest of Finland in 1809, the Russian government generally supported Finnish linguistic nationalism, as they believed it would alienate the Finns from Sweden and thereby ensure that close ties with or even the integration with Sweden would be halted. This Finnish-language nationalism known as the Fennoman movement soon developed into the most powerful political force in nineteenth century Finland and was summed up by a popular phrase of the time:

“…We are no longer Swedes; we cannot become Russians; we must be Finns…”

Kaarlo Slöör

Axel Gallén was a fervent nationalist and a follower of the Fennoman movement. It was this passion which was to alter the course of both his personal and artistic life. His interest in Finnish nationalism brought him in contact with Kaarlo Slöör who was a poet, translator, and editor in chief of the Finnish Official Journal and a staunch Finnish nationalist. Through this friendship he first met Slöör’s daughter Mary Helena, a talented concert pianist, and one of Kaarlo’s seven children. Axel Gallén had also attended school with two of her brothers, Karl Rafael, and Fredrik.

Nine year old Mary Helena and her five year old sister, Elin Margareta Slöör (1877)

Mary had a happy childhood living within a financially secure environment. Tragedy struck the family when Mary was ten years old with the death of her brother Otto in 1878 after suffering from diphtheria and the following year another of her brothers, Karl Artur, died of pneumonia.

Mary Gallén on the Lakeshore at Lintula by Axel Gallén (1904)

Axel and Mary fell in love as can be seen in letters between the couple. In a letter dated May 29th, 1887, a bashful Axel wrote to Mary:

“…Most loved Mary, what you need is when You, as you say, you want to, but you will not be able to be kind to me, to keep me a little bit. In the last some you call yourself ‘ as a friend ‘. Do not know, therefore, that, you my feelings towards you is not friendship, but love. I love you with all my soul and I cannot say it to you… “

Portrait of Mary Slöör, the Artist’s Fiancée (also known as Mary in a Black Dress) by Axel Gallen (1887)

In 1887, Axel painted a portrait of his future wife, Mary, entitled Mary Slöörin muotokuva.

After the Opera Ball by Axel Gallén (1888)

Gallén lived in Paris from the autumn of 1887 to the summer of 1889 during which time he continued at the Académie Julian as well as working at the Atelier Cormon from 1887 to 1888. His Paris paintings, such as Parisian Café and After the Opera Ball, recall the heady days of Paris Society.

Marie Gallén at the Kuhmoniemi-bridge by Axel Gallén (1890)

Axel and Mary secretly got engaged in spring 0f 1887 during his visit to Finland and before returning to his artistic studies in Paris. Once Axel’s paintings began to sell and his financial situation had improved, the couple married at the home of Mary’s parents on May 20th 1890. They went on honeymoon to Kuhmo in the south-east of Finland. Axel completed a number of paintings during the honeymoon including Marie Gallén at the Kuhmoniemi-bridge.

Kalela in Winter by Axel Gallén (1896)

There the couple were joined by Swedish artist, Count Louis Sparre, whom Axel had met whilst in Paris. The two men also made a couple of week-long trips to northern Russian Karelia. Axel Gallén was organising himself to paint a new version, commissioned by the government, of his Aino triptych, and whilst in Karelia he hoped to find models and themes for his work. He also planned to enter a new competition, set by the Savo-Karelia Students’ Association to provide illustrations for the Kalevala, an epic poem, consisting of 22,795 verses, divided into fifty songs, compiled by Elias Lonnrot, derived from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology. It is regarded as the national epic of Karelia and Finland and is one of the most significant works of Finnish literature.

The Aino Tryptich by Axel Gallén (1889)

It was during his time studying at the Atelier Cormon in 1888 that Axel started on his famous triptych The Legend of Aïno. For him it was an exciting time. It was the time of the Young Finland, Karelianism and the beginnings of the Kalevala Karelia romanticism.

The tragic tale of Aino was largely created by Elias Lönnrot, collector and writer of the stories behind the Kalevala saga. Myths are a reflection of the society from which they spring, in this case where parents and family decide the marital fate of a girl. The Aino triptych is still very capable of arousing discussions and emotions.

Aino,meaning “the only one”,  is a figure in the Finnish national epic Kalevala. It tells of her being the beautiful sister of Joukahainen. Her brother, having lost a singing contest to the storied Väinämöinen, promised Aino’s “hands and feet” in marriage if Väinämöinen would save him from drowning in the swamp into which Joukahainen had been thrown. Aino’s mother was pleased at the idea of marrying her daughter to such a famous and well born person, but Aino did not want to marry such an old man. Rather than submit to this fate, Aino drowned herself (or ended up as a nix – a water being). However, she returned to taunt the grieving Väinämöinen as a salmon.

Gallén painted the story of Aino in three scenes. However, they are not presented chronologically. In the left-hand panel Aino wrenches the string of pearls from around her neck and rejects Väinämöinen’s proposal. In the central panel, Väinämöinen brings up a strange catch when he goes fishing, which he initially recognises as Aino. She mocks Väinämöinen and leaps into the water. In the right-hand panel Aino meets the frolicking water nymphs, the maids of the water goddess Vellamo. In the next stage of the saga, Aino swims to a rock from where she sinks with it into oblivion beneath the waves, but this is not depicted.

Gallén based his work on the Kalevala, and its text didn’t hold back on criticising men, including Väinämöinen. The story of Aino is one of the great tragedies. The girl’s mother bitterly regrets her attempts at marrying off her daughter, against the girl’s wishes. Väinämöinen, on the other hand, “cries evening long, cries morning long, at night he cries still more…”
Aino gets her revenge. She mocks Väinämöinen, who imagined her “wiping his little kitchen, cleaning his floors” and jeers that the “feeble-minded” old man, doesn’t even recognise “Vellamo’s watery maid, the only child of Aho”. This is what Gallén chose as the central discussion point behind his triptych.

Madonna (Mary and Impi Marjatta) by Axel Gallén (1891)

After their honeymoon the Axel and Mary moved into rented accommodation in Malmi, a suburb of Helsinki. In the summer of 1891 the couple had their first child, a daughter, Impi Marjatta. Three years later Axel and his family moved to a home he had built in Ruovesi Kalela.

Portrait of Edvard Munch by Axel Gallén (1895)

In early 1895 Gallén travelled to Berlin where he took part in a joint exhibition with the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch. Axel completed a portrait of Munch that year.

Kalman kukka (The Flower of Death) by Axel Gallén (1895) for the Pan magazine

Axel also worked on a number of drawings for the new Berlin arts and literary magazine, Pan. His stay in Berlin was brought to an abrupt when he received a telegram informing him of the death of his four-year-old daughter Impi Marjatta at their partly-completed home, Kalela, in Ruovesi. She had died of diphtheria.

Axel and Mary’s studio-home in Ruovesi called Kalela

During 1895 ‘Kalela’ was finally completed. It was built of logs hewn lengthwise on opposite sides, and it became one of the most famous products of national-romantic architecture. Axel and Mary’s second child, a daughter, Kirsti, was born in 1895 and three years later their third child, a son, Kaius Jorma was born.  Mary helped Axel in his studio often making and decorating the paintings, and more mundane jobs such as cleaning and washing brushes and palettes. She would also practice wood cutting and gypsum moulding and helped him in the burning of glass stained glass. She often acted as his model.

The Artist’s Mother (also known as Konstnärens moder) by Axel Gallén (1896)

Axel was now starting to paint using tempera rather than oils and in 1896 he completed a portrait of his mother.

Joukahainen’s revenge by Axel Gallén (1897)

The following year more paintings in tempera illustrating the Kalevala followed including Joukahaisen kosto (‘Joukahainen’s Revenge’)

The Fratricide by Axel Gallén (1897)

and Velisurma (‘Fratricide’)

Study for the fresco Ilmarinen ploughing the Field of Vipers by Axel Gallén (1900)

In 1900 Axel Gallén was commissioned to paint frescoes for the Finnish Pavilion at the Paris World Fair. One of the frescoes was Ilmarinen Ploughing the Field of Vipers. Ilmarinen, the Eternal Hammerer, blacksmith and inventor was a character in the epic poem, Kalevala, and is a god and archetypal artificer from Finnish mythology. Axel, a staunch follower of Finnish nationalism, took the opportunity to make the depiction very political as he painted one of the vipers in the fresco as wearing the Romanov crown, and the process of removing the vipers from the field was a clear reference to his wish for an independent Finland.

Lake Keitele by Axel Gallén (1905)

In 1905 Axel Gallén produced one of his most famous works, Lake Keitele.  It is one of the artist’s most eloquent and haunting renditions of the subject and it is still the only painting by him in a public collection in Great Britain.  It is housed in the National Gallery in London.  Strangely the artist painted four versions of the picture between 1904 and 1906.  The year, 1904, had not started well for Axel.  He and his wife had been travelling around Europe and during their stay in Granada in southern Spain Axel contracted malaria. He and his wife returned to Finland so that he could recuperate.  The couple rented a lodge in Konginkangas on the shores of Lake Keitele which was more practical than returning to his remote studio in Ruovesi.  The painting depicts the lake’s scenic shores and crystalline waters which are bathed in brilliant northern light.

View Over Lake Ruovesi by Axel Gallén (1896)

Through finnicization, the changing of one’s personal names from other languages (usually Swedish) into Finnish, Axel Waldemar Gallén officially changed his Swedish family name to Akseli Gallén-Kallela in 1907 and from then on always signed his paintings with his Finnish name. However, his wife Mary kept her name as Mary Gallén.

Kikuyu Warrior by Akseli Gallén-Kallela (1909)

In 1909, Gallen-Kallela moved with his family to the British East African city of Nairobi, and there he painted more than 150 expressionist oil-paintings and collected many East African artefacts. However, the family became homesick and Akseli realised once again that his main artistic inspiration was Finland. The family moved back to Finland in 1911 and between 1911 and 1913 he designed and built a studio and house at Tarvaspää, which lay about 10 km north of the centre of Helsinki.

British East Africa by Akseli Gallén-Kallela (1910)

The collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917 caused a power vacuum in Finland, and civil war erupted between the left-wing labour movement and the conservatives. In 1918, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and his twenty-year-old son Jorma took part in the fighting at the front, in the Finnish Civil War on the side of the conservatives under the regent, General Mannerheim.

Portrait of Sigurd Wettenhovi-Aspa by Akseli Gallén-Kallela (1919)                                  Georg Sigurd Wettenhovi-Aspa was a Finnish painter, sculptor, poet, composer, linguist, eugenicist, inventor, architect, freemason, Egyptologist and Fennoman who is best known for his fantastic theories about the past of the Finnish people, whom he believed to have descended from Ancient Egypt.

In the aftermath of the civil war, the Finns went from being under Russian control to being within the German sphere of influence and the German rulers had a plan to establish a German-led Finnish monarchy. However, this idea was shelved with the defeat of Germany in World War I and finally Finland emerged as an independent, democratic republic. Finally, a nation which had been so divided came together and Finnish society was reunited through social compromises based on a long-term culture of moderate politics and religion and the post-war economic recovery.

The Artist’s Home by Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1925)

From December 1923 to May 1926, Akseli Gallen-Kallela lived in the United States, where an exhibition of his work toured several cities, and where he visited the Taos art-colony in New Mexico to study indigenous American art. In 1925 he began the illustrations for his “Great Kalevala”. This was still unfinished when he died of pneumonia in Stockholm on March 7th 1931, while returning from a lecture in Copenhagen. He was 65 years of age.


Besides Wikipedia, much of the information about the artist was gleaned from a number of websites, including:
Ateneum Art Museum: https://ateneum.fi/nayttelyarkisto/akseli-gallen-kallela-150-years/?lang=en
Kallela Museum: http://www.gallen-kallela.fi/en/akseli-gallen-kallela-and-tarvaspaa/akseli-gallen-kallelas-lifespan-and-timeline/
National Biography of Finland: https://kansallisbiografia.fi/english/person/3194

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Axel Waldemar Gallén (Akseli Gallén-Kallela). Part 1 – the early days.

My blog today is a veritable “potpourri”. It is a blend of history and geography all carefully mixed with the usual large serving of art history. It is a tale of a lake and forest, a country’s change of sovereignty and an artist who lived through those times but fell in love with his habitat. Today’s blog is all about the Finnish painter Akseli Gallén-Kallela, but this was not the name he was born with and this change is down to the changing history of his birth nation, Finland.

Axel Waldemar Gallén, aged 19 (1884)

If we look upon the history of Finland as a book, we should consider it as having three chapters. The first chapter would cover the period when what is now known as Finland was under the control of Sweden. This area was sandwiched between Sweden to the west and the Novgorod Republic to the east. However, as it is still the case in present times, ownership of land and “coveting thy neighbour’s goods” causes everlasting problems and Novgorod went to war with Sweden no fewer than 26 times over the land borders and the issue was not finally settled until August 12, 1323, when Sweden and Novgorod signed the Treaty of Nöteborg, which legalised their border for the first time. The Treaty allocated just the eastern part of Finland, such as Karelia, to Novgorod, whilst the western and southern parts of Finland were given to Sweden. As a consequence of this Swedish control in the west, the Swedish legal and social systems took root in Finland. During the Swedish period, Finland was merely a group of provinces and not a national entity and it was governed from Stockholm, which was the capital of the Finnish provinces at that time.

Gaining control of land is one thing, keeping the land is another. The great powerhouse of Sweden began to wane in the early 1700’s and Russia, which had absorbed Novgorod in the seventeenth century, began to look covetously at its western neighbour. When Sweden lost its position as a great power in the early 18th century, Russian pressure on Finland increased, and finally Russia conquered Finland in the 1808–1809 war with Sweden and the second chapter of Finnish history began.

After conquered by the Russian armies of Tsar Alexander I, Russia took control of Finland in 1809 and the country became an autonomous Grand Duchy, the head of state being the Grand Duke, the Russian Emperor, whose representative in Finland was the Governor General.

The third and final chapter in the history of Finland came in 1917 following the Russian Revolution when Finland declared itself independent. The following year the country was in tumult, divided by civil war brought on by an attempted coup by left-wing parties. An attempt was made to turn the country into a kingdom but this also failed. The Civil War finally ended in May 1918 when the government defeated the rebels and Finland became a republic in the summer of 1919.

So why the history lesson? Mainly for two reasons. My featured artist today lived between 1865 and 1931 and witnessed the changes in the history of his birthplace and was also part of the process of Finnicization, the changing of one’s personal names from other languages, in his case Swedish into Finnish in 1907. During the era of National Romanticism in Finland, between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many people, especially Fennomans, who were supporters of a nationalist political movement in 19th-century Finland that wanted to raise Finnish to the national language of the country, finnicized their previously Swedish family names.

Drypoint Self-portrait, (1897)

Today’s featured artist was born Axel Waldemar Gallén. His father was Peter Wilhelm Gallén who came from the small town of Lemu close to the city of Turku and whose family owned a farm named Kallela. Peter Gallén left the family home and went to study for a public service career, and in 1840 he succeeded his brother as police chief of Tyrvää. In 1841, when he was twenty-four-years-old, Peter married his elder brother’s adopted daughter Sofia Antoinette and put money into the Vanni estate which Sophie had inherited. The couple went on to have five children. In 1855 Sophie died and three years later, in 1858, Peter married for the second time.

Axel Gallén.s birth home in Pori.

His second wife was Mathilda Wahlroos, the daughter of a Pori sea captain and in 1862 Peter Gallén became one of the cashiers at the Pori office of the Bank of Finland. Peter and his second wife, Mathilda, had seven children in all, which made Peter a father of twelve, the third of these children born to Peter and Mathilda on April 26th, 1865 was Axel Waldemar Gallén.

Jaatsi, the childhood home.

In 1867 Peter Gallén left his job at the bank in Pori and returned to the Tyrvää region with his large family, including Axel, who was then two years old, and bought Jaatsi Farm, and on the land, he built himself a spacious residence. It was a rural environment and for the children it was a case of living and playing amongst unspoiled nature. Once settled in, Peter became a lawyer in a private practice in Tyrvää.

School photo of the Gallén brothers Axel, Uno and Walter in 1876.

Axel had developed a love of art during his early days and his mother, Mathilda Gallén, who was a keen amateur painter, wanted her son to have an artistic career but her husband vehemently disagreed and was adamant that this was not a suitable career path for his son and so, in 1876, when Axel was eleven years old, he, along with two of his brothers Uno and Walter, was sent away to Helsinki to attend the Swedish-language grammar school. He was very disinterested in what he was being taught as all he could think about was art and all he had to console himself was to  attend the evening course at the drawing school of the Finnish Art Society from 1878 to 1881 and later the Central School for Applied Arts in 1880 and 1881. Axel’s father Peter died in 1879 and Axel’s life and future took another route – a route he had always wanted to travel along – a route towards the world of art, so when his grammar school education ended in 1881 he enrolled as a day student at the drawing school of the Finnish Art Society. In 1883 he transferred to the model class, where his teacher was the Finnish landscape and portrait painter, Fredrik Ahlstedt.

The Boy’s Workhouse, Helsinki by Albert Edelfelt, (1885)

In 1883 and in 1884 Axel was taught art by Albert Edelfelt, one of the first Finnish artists to attain international recognition and was one of the founders of the Realist art movement in Finland.

Repairing the Fishing Net by Adolf von Becker

Axel Gallén also spent time studying at the private academy run by the Finnish genre painter and art professor Adolf von Becker from 1882 to 1884 and did drawings at the University’s dissecting room.

Boy with a Crow by Axel Gallén
(1884)

Adolf von Becker was his most dependable teacher in the area of French realism, and he greatly influenced Axel when it came to demonstrate the technique of plein air painting. One such work is Axel’s Boy with a Crow. Axel completed the painting and people were astounded by the finished work. What amazed people was that his depiction was so like many of the works by the French painter Jules Bastien-Lepage and yet Axel had never been to France and seen the work of this great painter.

Pas Mèche (Nothing Doing) by Jules Bastien-Lepage (1882)

It is believed that Axel had learnt about the work of Bastien-Lepage through Albert Edelfelt who had lived in Paris and had been won over by the outdoor realism paintings of Lepage. The peasant boy depicted in the painting, Boy with a Crow, was known to Axel and he talked about the staging of the depiction, saying that the secret of his success with the painting was persuading the boy to believe that he could tame the crow by sprinkling salt on its tail feathers!

A photograph of Axel Gallén and other art students in Académie Julian in the 1880s

Probably persuaded by Edelfelt, Axel Waldemar Gallén, moved to Paris in the Autumn of 1884 and went to study at Académie Julian and the Atelier Cormon run by the French painter, Fernand Cormon. Axel studied at these establishments for the next five years. Equally as important to the artistic training he received at the Academy was the people he met. He recorded in his journal the bohemian lives of his artist and writer friends, such as the Swedish playwright and novelist, August Strindberg. He also spent time visiting art exhibitions, such as the Spring 1885 Jules Bastien-Lepage Memorial Exhibition when more than two hundred of the French painter’s pictures were exhibited at the École des Beaux-Arts, a year after the great man’s death.

The Old Woman and the Cat by Axel Gallén (1885)

Axel Gallén returned home in 1885. This was the year he painted his well-known work Akka ja kissa (‘Old Woman and Cat’) at the town of Salo. The elderly woman depicted in the painting was a local peasant who lived with her sheep. The initial painting just depicted the woman and the cat and the background was added once Axel returned to his studio in Tyrvää. The painting was a classic example of naturalism or rural naturalism which follows the concept that truth was more valuable than beauty and once again we can see the influence of Bastien-Lepage in this work. The painting was exhibited at the Finnish Art Society in the autumn of 1886 but opinions on the merit of the work were divided. The conservatives believed the painting to be ugly and the depiction of the woman, repulsive, whilst the liberals acclaimed the work for its realistic qualities.

Portrait of Herman Frithiof Antell, by Axel Gallen (1885)

Axel returned to Paris in late 1865 thanks to financial help from his mother and a government grant. Whilst in the French capital he completed a portrait of Herman Frithiof Antell, a licentiate of medicine and one of the most generous benefactors in Finnish cultural history.

Démasquée by Axel Gallén (1888)

So pleased was Antell with the portrait that two years later he commissioned Axel Gallén to paint a nude, which is now known as Démasquée (Uncovered). This is one of just a handful of nude paintings completed by Gallén. It was done by him in his Paris studio and it is the epitome of realism. The naked woman, almost certainly a French model, is seen seated on a colourful cover made up in the typical Finnish ryijy weave. This is not a depiction of a well-endowed beauty. This is a true depiction of an ordinary woman who seems very relaxed and happy to be sitting naked in front of the artist. Another aspect of realism is the fact that Axel depicted pubic hair in his portrayal of the woman which was unusual in European art.

Evening Landscape from Korpilahti by Axel Gallén

Once again Alex returned to Finland in the summer of 1886 and this time settled down in the sparsely populated area around the small town of Korpilahti which lies in Central Finland. It is a beautiful area with over two hundred lakes as well as awe-inspiring mountains. It was during his stay here that Axel carried on with his rural realism depictions.

The Ekola Croft in Evening Sunlight by Axel Gallén (1889)

In the winter of 1886 Axel moved from Korpilahti to the Central Finnish town of Keuruu and stayed at Ekola Croft which appears in a number of his paintings such as The Ekola Croft in Evening Sunlight which he completed in 1889. The croft was on the shore of the large Keurusselkä lake and must have been an idyllic location.

The First Lesson (also known as Ensi opetus) by Alex Gallén (c.1887)

Another painting he completed around this time was one entitled The First Lesson (also known as Ensi opetus). The setting is the interior of a log cabin and it depicts a father teaching his young daughter.

In the next part of my blog looking at the life and artwork of Axel Gallén (Akseli Gallén-Kallela) I will be delving into his later life, his marriage and his fascination with the Kalevala, the 19th-century work of epic poetry created and compiled by Elias Lonnrot.


besides Wilipedia, much of the information about the artist was gleaned from a number of websites, including:

Ateneum Art Museum:  https://ateneum.fi/nayttelyarkisto/akseli-gallen-kallela-150-years/?lang=en

Kallela Museum:  http://www.gallen-kallela.fi/en/akseli-gallen-kallela-and-tarvaspaa/akseli-gallen-kallelas-lifespan-and-timeline/

National Biography of Finland:  https://kansallisbiografia.fi/english/person/3194

 

 

The talented Rayner childen. Part 3. Louise Rayner

In the “About” section of my blog I state quite categorically that I am not a painter. This has now changed in as much as I have now started to dip a paintbrush into paint and touch it to a canvas. Why? As people know my great interest is in art history but people always seem surprised that I have not rattled off a few masterpieces. They constantly ask me why I do not even try to paint. I have now started on that long artistic road and have fallen by the wayside so many times I often wonder why I persevere, but persevere I do. Having said so many times in my blog that I like detailed paintings I tried to emulate the great painters who seem to find it so easy to depict buildings but of course, as you will have guessed, I fail miserably. How artists manage to add so much detail in their work both amazes and frustrates me. Maybe I should paint a few coloured squares or a series of dots instead and then have a highfalutin reasoning behind my depiction! However, whilst I struggle on manfully with my efforts, I want to talk about and show you the work of a genius in this field of cityscape art. Let me introduce you to the English Victorian painter Louise Rayner.

Louise Rayner aged 27

Louisa Ingram Rayner was born in Matlock Bath in Derbyshire on June 21st, 1832. Her middle name, Ingram, came from her grandmother’s family. Whilst she was young she was always known as Louisa but as she grew older she preferred the name, Louise. She was the fourth of nine children. Louise had four sisters and one brother, all of whom became artists. Her father was Samuel Rayner an English landscape artist, who was known for his depictions of buildings and their interiors, including abbeys, churches and old mansions and her mother was Ann Manser Rayner who was an expert engraver of black marble.

The Bell Inn, Market Place, Ely by Louise Rayner

At the age of ten, she and her family left Derbyshire and returned to London and it was here that she would spend most of her early life. It was whilst on a family holiday in Herne Bay, when she was fifteen, that she took up drawing and, soon after, she began to study painting seriously, at first with her father who played a major part in her love of art and later under guidance from her father’s artist friends such as George Cattermole, who like her father worked for John Britton, an English antiquary, author and editor, Edmund Niemann, the highly successful British landscape artist who worked mostly in oils. Another of her father’s friends was David Roberts, the Scottish painter who completed long sketching and painting tours of the near East, the Holy Land and Egypt but also specialised in architectural and topographical scenes.

Interior of Haddon Hall by Louise Rayner

His influence on Louise Rayner is very apparent when we look at the first painting she submitted to the Royal Academy in 1852 entitled The Interior of Haddon Chapel, Derbyshire.

Eastgate Street, from east of the Cross looking towards the Eastgate by Louise Rayner

Louise Rayner, like David Roberts, depicted cities and their often crumbling buildings as well as stately homes and their surroundings. During her most active period, Louise, like her father before her, painted a large number of church interiors, and exteriors but what she would really become known for, was her depictions of ancient streets and picturesque yet dilapidated in many of the cities and towns of Britain and Northern France, all of which she always populated by numerous figures. She was a prolific painter and her works appeared at the Royal Academy exhibitions between 1852 and 1886.

Louise Rayner first began exhibiting her watercolour paintings in 1860 at the Society of Female Artists, which was founded three years earlier and has held an annual exhibition in London of the work of women artists ever since. Louise continued to live at the family home and in the early 1860’s this was located in Brighton.

Louise is first recorded as first visiting Chester in 1869. Her paintings from this period are very detailed and charming in a chocolate-box sort of way. They encapsulate the olde worlde charm of Chester and the other towns which she depicted. Most of her works feature people going about their daily business, such as street sellers and people out shopping.

Watergate Street Chester by Louise Rayner

However, midway through that decade, she went on sketching journeys which resulted in beautiful paintings of historical England and Wales. One of her favourite places to visit was the Roman town of Chester (Deva) and it is recorded that Louise was living in Chester at 2 Ash Grove, off the Wrexham Road, in Chester in 1869.

Aberconwy House by Louise Rayner                                                                  The painting shows both Aberconwy House and Conwy Castle in the background. Aberconwy House was originally a 14th Century merchant’s house. It is thought that Louise captured this image during one of her trips to the Welsh town around 1868.

What first grabbed my attention about the Rayner family was the picture above, a painting by Louise Rayner of Aberconwy House within the walled-town of Conwy.  It is a place I pass a number of times each week and up until two years ago, I lived just fifty yards from this building.

Aberconwy House this afternoon

..………and this is how looked this afternoon !

Street View Wrexham by Louise Rayner (c.1880’s)

Another Welsh town she visited and depicted in one of her paintings was Wrexham and above we have her work entitled Street View, Wrexham which she completed in the 1880’s.

Newspaper clipping of 1898 following the exhibiting of the painting

Again the local newspaper’s art critic praised her work.

Fish Street, Shrewsbury by Louise Rayner                                       The depiction is of Fish Street, Shrewsbury, looking south-south-east. Not only do we have a hive of activity at street level but Louise has included some bird life up on the roofs. In the distance, two churches vie for attention. The spire is St. Alkmund’s Church, and the more prominent church is St. Julian’s.

Another of my favourite towns which I frequently visit is Shrewsbury and the town, as it used to be, is beautifully captured in Louise’s painting, Fish Street Shrewsbury.

Old Houses, Shrewsbury by Louise Rayner

Another depiction of the streets of Shrewsbury can be seen in her painting, Old Houses, Shrewsbury.

Dudley Market Place, 1870, by Louise Rayner

Louise and her younger brother Richard visited the area around the West Midland’s town of Dudley on one of their subject-seeking art expeditions in 1865 and five years later Louise produced this beautiful painting. The depiction is taken from Market Place and we look down Castle Street with Hall Street to the right. In the background, we can see the Church of St Edmund, locally known as the “bottom church” to differentiate from St Thomas’ parish church in High Street (not in the picture) which is known as “top church”. To the left, on the skyline, we can just make out the upper part of Dudley Castle.

Rheims Cathedral, France by Louise Rayner

Louise traveled extensively throughout Britain each summer during the 1870s and 1880s, but also took trips to northern France and in the picture above we see her depiction of a street in Rheims. The painting depicts Rheims Cathedral in the background. The beauty of this work lies in the drama of the architecture as we see the cathedral spire rising into the sky whilst below we see the street populated by locals. Look how she has used a blaze of sunlight, raking between the buildings, to highlight a man on the right trying to gain entrance to his house.

West Bow, Edinburgh by Louise Rayner

As it is for everyone, age takes its toll and as she grew older Louise’s artistic talent began to fade probably due to her failing eyesight, unsteady hands and the ability or enthusiasm to travel to towns to seek out new views for her work. Louise exhibited for the last time at the Royal Academy in 1886, and the last time anywhere in London in 1893. She had reached her peak well before she had almost decided to lay to rest her paint brushes at the age of 76 in 1908. The Rayner family dynasty was starting to come to an end. Frances Rayner Copinger died in 1889 and Louise’s mother, Ann, the following year. In 1890 Louise and her sister Margaret set up a teaching studio in Chester but on “retiring”, she and her sister went to live in Tunbridge Wells in 1910. In 1908 the youngest Rayner sibling, Richard, dies aged 65. On August 20th, 1920 her sister and companion Margaret died and Louise Rayner moved to Southwater Road, St Leonards on Sea, a seaside town close to Hastings, where she remained until her death on October 8th, 1924, aged 92.

The Close, Salisbury by Louise Rayner

What surprises me the most is that despite her intricate cityscape paintings, and watercolours, Louise Rayner is not seen as one of the great artists of the nineteenth century. Maybe it is because of the similarity of her work, but can you really get tired of a good thing?  I will leave the last word to Peter Watson, the art correspondent of The Observer newspaper, who wrote about Louise following his visit to the Christies Glasgow auction in November 1974. He wrote derisively about the event itself but praised Louise’s work.

“…Louise Rayner won’t be to everyone’s taste – very dense, detailed paintings-cum-drawings of Victorian streets teeming with life: cats fighting, dogs smelling, spivs spivving, washing hanging, flirts leering, babies vomiting, parents spanking. And not a give-away either (priced at several thousand) but they do have a lookatable quality which possibly justifies the price…”

I hope you have enjoyed the last three blogs charting the lives of the Rayner family.  Having just completed this one on Louise Rayner and her architectural cityscapes I am going to return to my own canvas, give up my aspirations of depicting a cityscape and just spray a few colours of paint on it and maybe a few zig-zags !!!!!!!


Besides the usual sources such as Wikipedia I got most of my information about the Rayner family from an excellent and comprehensive website entitled DudleyMall.

(http://www.dudleymall.co.uk/loclhist/rayner/samuel.htm)

 

The talented Rayner children. Part 2: Ann Ingram (Nancy) Rayner, Rhoda (Rose) Rayner and Frances Rayner Copinger

Ann Ingram (Nancy) Rayner

This is a detail from Nancy’s sister Rose’s 1856 painting Divided Attention and it is thought that it depicts Nancy at work, sitting here in fancy dress.

Samuel and Ann Rayner had nine children of which six excelled artistically like their parents. Having looked at the life of the parents in my previous blog I want to focus on the talents of their children.

Their first-born child was William but he died at childbirth and so the title of eldest child fell on to the shoulders of their daughter Ann Ingram Rayner who, to save confusion with her mother, was always known as Nancy. She was born in London in 1826 during the time when the family were living at 11 Blandford Street, Portman Square, Marylebone. A year after she was born, the family moved to Museum Parade in Matlock Baths, and her early years were spent in Derbyshire.

                              The Gleaners by Nancy Rayner (c.1850)                                            The painting entitled The Gleaners was painted by Nancy in 1850 and shown at the Old Watercolour Society Exhibition in 1850. Gleaners are people, usually done by the local poor, who gather grain or other produce left behind after the harvest, with or without the farmer’s consent. It was usually done by the to provide some extra food. The children depicted are likely to be seven-year-old Richard Rayner (the youngest of the Rayner children) on the left, along with one of his sisters. The sister was initially thought to be Margaret but the painting was a poor likeness of her in 1850. Instead the girl is now believed to be one of the few non-artists of the Rayner children, Grace Dorothy Rayner, who would have been eleven at the time the painting was completed.

Nancy started her artistic studies at the age of ten and soon proved to be very talented. In her teenage years she was probably influenced by contemporaries of her father such George Cattermole, a fellow draughtsman working for John Britton. Another was Octavius Oakley, who had developed into a specialist of portraits in watercolour and was, like Samuel Rayner, given commissions by the Duke of Devonshire. Oakley  tutored Nancy in the art of portraiture and Nancy’s ability at painting portraits was initially down to his work with her. Other luminaries who influenced Nancy were the Scottish painter, David Roberts who had been a long-standing friend of the Rayner family. When he returned from a sketching trip to Spain he gave Nancy one of his original pencil sketches. Samuel Prout, one of the masters of British watercolour architectural painting, was also a great inspiration to Nancy.

The Tambourine Woman by Nancy Raynard (1852)                        The painting, originally known as The Gypsey Woman, later The Tambourine Woman, was painted by Nancy Rayner in 1852 but has no signature of the artist on the work of art itself although a sticker with her name on it was found on the frame. There are many thoughts as to why she did not sign the work. Maybe Nancy wanted to remain anonymous because of the scandal of her father’s court case in 1851 which was causing great financial problems to the family.

Nancy was the first of Samuel’s children to become an Associate of the Old Watercolour Society. The Society albeit supportive of watercolourists was a male-dominated society for it was only the male Associates who could progress to become full members of the Society and share in its profits and become administrators. Female associates were barred from this transitioning. At the time of Nancy’s election as an Associate there were only three other Associate female painters, Maria Harrison, Eliza Sharp and Mary Ann Criddle who were also affected by this ruling. They were well in the minority as there were 26 male members and 17 male associates. After sustained pressure from the ladies with regards this unfair treatment the Old Watercolour Society changed the rules and appointed them Honorary Lady Members. However, they still were not allowed to share in the profits of the Society.

Nancy then had her first painting exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1848, at the age of twenty-two, and was elected a Member of the Old Watercolour Society two years later. The sale of her paintings went well and she received many commissions and patronage. Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester was known to be one of Nancy’s patrons.

Portrait of the Gloucester Children by Nancy Rayner (1850)

Her 1850 painting entitled Summer Pastimes, which is also known as Portrait of the Gloucester Children depicts two young children playing. It is thought that the children are in fact the Duchess’s children or maybe her grandchildren as if you look at the window on the right you can see a flag flying over a castle tower, signifying that is part of the royal estate.

Nancy Rayner’s life came to an early end in November 1855 at the age of twenty-nine and so her artistic life was cut short. As a talented painter, maybe if she had lived longer, she would have been as famous as her father or her famous sister, Louise.

Rhoda (Rose) Rayner

Rose Rayner at the age of 31.

The second daughter of Samuel and Ann Rayner was Rhoda, known as Rose. She was born 1828 whilst her parents were living in the small Derbyshire town of Matlock Baths. Her artistic journey began as a teenager when she was taught how to create models using clay and she began to produce jugs and vases. Her late venture into the world of painting was probably due to her love of clay modelling and pottery and she would spend much time making and decorating her pottery figures. It was not until seven years later, around 1850, when she was twenty-one, that she began to paint with watercolours like her siblings. Four years later, in 1854, some of her paintings were seen at art exhibitions. One of the great artistic influences on Rose was the rise of the pre-Raphaelite painters.

Miss Catty by Rose Rayner (1854)                            The subject and title of this painting is Miss Catty. She is one of the daughters in the Catty family. Grace Dorothy Rayner who was ten years younger than Rose and one of three non-artists of the family. She had married Frederick Henry Bovil Catty in 1869.

Although her interests remained in watercolour painting and pottery her great love was teaching and it is thought that throughout her life she was involved in the private tuition of children whose parents could afford to give their children a good start in life. Rose was fortunate to be able to travel widely in Europe. The fact that she travelled so much and so far from home, like her trip to Russia in 1880 would mean that she had either become very prosperous or that she travelled as part of a wealthy family’s retinue.

Divided Attention by Rose Rayner (1856)                                   Rose Rayner painted Divided Attention in 1856. It is believed that it depicts her sister Nancy sitting before her easel with one of her many suitors watching her work. The signature at the bottom of the painting is “R.Rayner”

Rhoda Rayner exhibited at the Royal Academy and elsewhere between 1854 and 1866, and it is thought it was during this period that she began to call herself Rose.

In the late 1870’s life changed for her. The marriage between her younger sister Frances and her husband Charles Coppinger in 1866 had come to an end. Frances left her husband and went with her daughter Annette (Netta) back to live at her parents’ home in New Windsor. It was in 1879 that Samuel Rayner died and it is thought that Rose’s share of his inheritance allowed her the independence to live on her own at 103 Dalberg Road in the London borough of Lambeth and following Frances’ return home Rose offered to look after Netta who was eleven years old.

Russian Balloon Seller – Streets of Petrograd 1881 by Rose Rayner (1881)

In 1881 she completed a painting entitled Russian Balloon Seller, Streets of Petrograd. She had probably made preliminary sketches when she was visiting Russia in 1880 with her niece Netta and completed the work in her London studio.

Self portrait of Netta MacGregor                 The sketch above is a self-portrait of Netta dated 1920, two years after her marriage to Robert MacGregor.   It is signed in her married name A(nnette) F(rances) MacGregor and is an indication that like her aunts she had acquired great artistic talent. 

Rose and Netta were still living together in 1891 according to the census of that year. Their home was now Hampstead in London and the census gives Rose’s occupation as Artist, Figure Painter, Sculptor and Annette’s occupation as piano music teacher.

In 1908, Rose’s younger brother Richard died, aged 65 and Rose moved to a new house and went to live next door to Richard’s family in Orpington Kent. Her niece Netta worked in a hospital during the First World War where she met a Canadian, Robert MacGregor, and when the war ended the couple were married and went to live in Canada. Rose died aged 92, in Orpington, Kent, on January 12th, 1921, just a few months after Netta and Robert sailed for Canada. Rose was the longest-lived of all her sisters.

Frances Rayner Copinger

Frances Rayner aged 28.

Frances Rayner was the sixth child of Samuel and Ann Rayner. She was born in Piccadilly, London on August 19th, 1834 and along with her older brother Samuel and older sister Louise was christened at the Newman Street Apostolic Catholic Church in Marylebone the following February.

Port Dieppe by Frances Rayner (1884)                                                               It is thought that the portly figure with the white hair standing in the boat could have been Frances’ father Samuel but he died in 1879. However it is known that Frances had been in the Dieppe area in 1866 and she could have sketched the scene then but not painted it until later and not completed it until 1884.

Frances’ artistic path differed to those of her elder siblings as she never exhibited any of her paintings until she was twenty-five years of age, and then only on one occasion in 1861 did she have a painting of hers, a watercolour, Church of St Andre, Antwerp, appear in a London gallery.   It was exhibited in the Suffolk Street gallery in London. The one thing she had in common with her father was her love of architecture and especially the architecture of old religious buildings.

Kapellbrucke und Wasserthurm, Luzern by Frances Rayner                                           This is Frances’s painting of the Kapellbrucke und Wasserthurm, Luzern (Chapel Bridge and Water Tower in Lucerne, Switzerland), which is the oldest wooden bridge in Europe, spanning the River Reuss. In the lower left, though hardly visible, is Frances’s faint monogram and her married name Copinger.

One of her great loves was travel and she journeyed throughout Europe on a number of occasions and from these travels was born a number of paintings featuring places in Europe. Frances Rayner married Charles Copinger in February 1867. It was Copinger’s second wife, his first wife Mary had died in 1866. From his first marriage Charles had five children and with Frances he had a daughter Annette Frances who was born on October 26th, 1867 and a son Ernest Edwin born in 1871. Following her marriage, Frances and her husband lived in Brussels for some years, but by the time of the census in 1871 she and the family had returned to England and were living in the London borough of Islington. The census reports her occupation as an artist and her husband’s occupation stated as being a clergyman of the Catholic Apostolic Church. There was one other occupant of their household, Copinger’s sister Clara, who acted as a governess for the children.

Canterbury Baptistery by Frances Copinger (née Rayner)  Frances certainly favoured religious subjects for her paintings and this one is the Canterbury Baptistery, and was signed (deep in the flowers) “F. Copinger née Rayner 1884”

The marriage between Frances Rayner and Charles Copinger ended shortly after the birth of their son but there is no record of a divorce, which was very difficult to procure in those days. Notwithstanding that, Charles simply left Frances and went off to America and in Baltimore in 1878, with or without divorce, he married his third wife Mary Margaret May. They went on to have two daughters and a son. Charles Copinger died on May 9th, 1913.
After the breakdown of her marriage in the late 1870s, Frances left her husband and took the children to live with her mother and father but probably because of the problems of space in her family’s house, her daughter Annette went to live with Frances’ sister Rose. In the 1881 census Frances is noted as living with her son Ernest as a lodger in a house belonging to the Sevenoakes family in New Windsor on the outskirts of London.

Baron’s Chapel at Haddon Hall by Frances Copinger (née Rayner) 1883             Frances, like her sisters and father painted scenes depicting Haddon Hall. of the family.

Frances Rayner died in 1889, a year before the death of her mother, Ann. She was 55. At the time of his mother’s death, her son Ernest was about eighteen years of age. When Frances died Ernest went to live in Camberwell with his Aunt Grace who had married Frederick Catty in 1869 and the couple had five children of their own. Ernest became a merchant’s clerk when he was nineteen. He died in 1904

Of all the Rayner children the most talented was Louise and I will dedicate my final blog to her life and her beautiful works of art.


Besides the usual sources such as Wikipedia I got most of my information about the Rayner family from an excellent and comprehensive website entitled DudleyMall.
(http://www.dudleymall.co.uk/loclhist/rayner/samuel.htm)

It is really worthwhile you going to have a look at it.

I also gleaned information about Charles Copinger from the family blog :

http://www.copinger.org/page.php?file=1_34