Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale
(1871-1945) was a well respected illustrator and painter of her day. In 1896, she created a lunette titled Spring
, which was used in the Royal Academy Dining Room. In 1902, she had the honor of becoming the first female member of the Institute of Painters in Oils. She illustrated many books such as Poems by Tennyson
, 1905, W.M. Canton, Story of St. Elizabeth of Hungary
, 1912, and Calthorp, A Diary of an 18th Century Garden
, 1926, to name a few. In 1919, Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale's Golden Book of Famous Women
was published by Hodder & Stoughton, which was a compilation of stories about some of the most famous women in history and legend as written by some of the most famous authors in history such as William Shakespeare, Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, and John Keats among others. Although this book contains no introduction to explain whose inspiration it was to put the book together or who chose the content, it seems clear from the title that Brickdale must have been the mastermind behind it.
Her works are always styled in the manner of the Pre-Raphaelites such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti or William Holman Hunt, using vibrant jewel like colors and representative 19th century subject matter. Take for example her allegorical painting titled, The Deceitfulness of Riches
, which after being first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1901, was subsequently included in an exhibition titled Such Stuff as Dreams are made of
, in 1902, a reference to William Shakespeare's The Tempest
. Many classical artists from the 19th century would put to vision what famous writers and poets put to pen. There was a great love of storytelling and without television or other modern day technologies; drawing, painting, and theater, were the only ways to express subject matter in a visual context. The symbolism in this painting was highly debated when it was first put on view, and today, its deeper meaning is still up to interpretation. A princess sits in a stately garden, coddling a sleeping kitten. Her jealous attendant's close in about her, isolating her from the outside world . The child in the upper left of the painting appears to speak, though her voice cannot be heard over the musician which sits between her and the princess. A second attendant motions for silence towards an approaching woman who appears to sneak a view. A Holy figure is depicted in a decorative tablet, slightly above and behind the princess, their backs to each other. Like the kitten, the princess remains ignorant, pampered and isolated from the world around her, providing a false sense of contentment and security. The expression of the princess has a sad undertone, and it is possible that the only intentions she can trust is that of the kitten's which she holds to her chest.
Tragically Brickdale's career was cut short when she suffered a stroke in 1938 and could not paint for the remaining 7 years of her life. Today, her paintings are in the collections of several museums including the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Leeds City Museums and Art Galleries, and the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University. Her work demonstrates great skill and it is clear that she is one of the reasons the turn of the 19th to 20th century has become known as the Golden Age of Illustration.
-by Kara Lysandra RossSource
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Pre-Raphaelite online resource, artist biography section, Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale
To view Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale's Golden Book of Famous Women, please click here.