GREAT Britain is justly proud of her women artists, some of whom are represented in the Woman’s Building, but to judge of all that they are exhibiting at Chicago, the visitor must look in at the Art Palace and see some of the strong pictures exhibited there. It is nothing new to find English women in the front ranks of British art. They have always held a distinguished position, and in any book which pretends to give the history of women’s achievements in art a very large proportion of the painters will be found to have been English, either by birth or by adoption. It is interesting to remember that a woman painter was one of the original members of the Royal Academy, whose charter was signed by King George III., at the instance of the American painter Benjamin West, who, after the death of Sir Joshua (first president of the Academy), held the position of president during the remainder of his life. In the art exhibitions of London, women to-day hold a prominent position. Mrs. Alma Tadema is a painter with a great deal of originality and of power. Her husband has been heard to say that his highest ambition is to have it written on his tombstone, “Here lies the husband of Mrs. Alma Tadema.” Mrs. Stillman is one of our popular painters. Her pictures possess a certain ideal quality which is not always to be found combined with the admirable technique which we find in her work. Miss Lena Stillman, one of our younger artists, is full of promise. There is a certain gravity and dignity about her compositions which win for them immediate recognition. Kate Greenaway’s name is a household word. Her delightful illustrations are known in every home where children and good taste are to be found. She has done more, perhaps, to bring about an improvement in the dress of our little men and little maids than any other individual. One meets whole groups of Kate Greenaway children in Hyde Park on a Sunday morning. Mrs. George Watts has achieved a reputation by her admirable portraits.
In the use of water-colors, women share the high position that our English artists hold in that exquisite branch of art, for there can be no denying that in aquarelles no school has ever approached the English. The opportunities for studying art in our country are very great, for women as well as for men. The careless observer, judging only from the large annual exhibitions, in which it may be held that the standard is not kept sufficiently high, may be inclined to underrate contemporary British art, but the careful student will find that London is in fact, as well as in name, one of the great art centers of the world. While George Watts, Walter Crane, and Burne-Jones live, we can claim that in the field of portraiture, illustration, and ideal work three of the greatest contemporary artists are English born and bred. The Montalba sisters, Mrs. Adrian Stokes, Blanche Jenkins, Henrietta Rae, Miss Osborne, and Miss Stewart Wood are well represented at Chicago. Mrs. Swynnerton’s “Mater Triumphalis” at the Art Palace wins almost as much commendation as Lady Butler’s famous picture, “The Roll Call.” When this was exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy, a policeman was in attendance to keep the crowd in order that always gathered about it. The picture was bought by Her Majesty Queen Victoria, who has kindly consented to send it to Chicago.
Mrs. Adrian Stokes exhibits two of her important pictures, an “Annunciation,” very original in composition, and a pathetic little scene which she calls “Go, thou must play alone, my boy.” A little lad sits weeping bitterly beside his playmate, who lies at rest white and still as the flowers on her breast. The treatment of this familiar subject is very tender, the dead child is exquisitely painted, and the grief of the little brother is quiet, reserved, and infinitely human. The women sculptors who exhibit are Miss B. A. M. Brown, Miss Henrietta Montalba, Miss Ada M. Chignell, and Miss E. M. Moore. Among the etchings and engravings excellent examples of the work of Mrs. Dale, Miss Ethel Martyn, and Miss Elizabeth Piper may be found. When the exceedingly high standard of the work which Great Britain has sent to Chicago is taken into account, it is a significant and encouraging fact that forty-five women are represented among the British artists exhibiting in the Art Palace.