A Large Aesthetic Movement Period Full-Length Oil on Canvas Portrait of a Lady c.1875-95

Origin: English
Period: Aesthetic Movement
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1875-95
Height: 60”
Width: 32”

The large portrait at over five feet high of a lady standing full-length in a brown medieval type dress in front of a dresser and hearth, and verso another portrait of a lady standing full-length in a pink cocktail dress, both executed in oils on canvas, and surviving from the aesthetic period of late nineteenth century England.

The works have not been meddled with in any way. There are no tears, punctures, or signs of patching, nor any varnishing or over painting. Please refer to the photographs for a full visual reference.

In style, composition and palette, the present work is closely associated with the Aesthetic Movement in Victorian Britain. The aesthetic movement rebelled against the lavish ornamentation and over-embellishment of the high Victorian period, and sought a purer, more precise level of expression. The main portrait we see here is rather similar to Lachrymae by Frederic Leighton of 1895 and The Seamstress by James Abbot McNeill Whistler of around 1875.

The woman is depicted standing in profile, dressed in Medieval costume, and situated in a contemporary setting. The dresser is sparsely decorated with two pewter plates, and there is a blue and white chinoiserie bowl, which was a common motif in the Aesthetic Movement, positioned to the left of the sitter’s feet. Full-length portraits with pewter plates in the background are not completely uncommon between James Jebusa Shannon in the 1880s and William Orpen around 1900. The sitter’s profile and stance draws similarities to certain models of John William Waterhouse, whilst the subtle tones and overall style suggest an artist working in the circle of George Frederic Leighton, c.1880s.

The overall composition, however, is principally evocative of the Aesthetic Movement, and draws on many of its decorative traits. The reverse of the canvas produces another interesting example of a portrait likely to have been executed in the late 1890s/early 1900s, based on the technique and costume of the sitter. Although unfinished, the expressive brushstrokes and cool colour palette bear resemblances to various works by John Abbott McNeill Whistler, and indeed many of Whistler's portraits of women are presented on a full-length scale on tall, narrow canvases.

A hugely interesting and striking work, with the added bonus of a work verso, and art with real poise that truly escapes the ugliness and materialism of the Victorian era by creating a new kind of art and beauty.