A Very Accomplished Victorian Lady
Launching FARA Fine Art has meant we have had the privilege to handle some truly amazing pieces of art and as collections go, this red leather-bound album is absolutely full of the most beautiful drawings and paintings by Victorian artist Susan Harriet Holroyd.
Born in London in 1829 she was the daughter of the 2nd Earl of Sheffield - Lady Susan grew up in Victorian high society and was married on 26th June 1849 to the English naturalist and later to be Conservative politician, Edward Vernon Harcourt. She is pictured above with her daughter Edith - from the photographic collection of the National Portrait Gallery.
As part of our research into the album we discovered only one other piece by her (The Lady of the Lake dated 1845) which is held in The Royal Collection. It's description reads 'This drawing is housed in an album compiled by Queen Victoria (or probably Queen Victoria's mother, Victoria Duchess of Kent).'
Throughout their married life, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert commissioned watercolours recording places they had visited and events they attended. These works were mounted in a series of 'Souvenir Albums', which acted as a visual counterpart to the Queen's written Journals. The royal couple spent time together arranging the drawings and captioning the pages.
As you can see there is a striking resemblance to the arrangement of the picture in our album.
Lady Susan travelled extensively, quite the Grand Tour, with her husband as part of his work and had rich opportunity to draw foreign landscapes and the album contains views from Florence, Athens, Syria, Constantinople and Algiers. We know that Lady Susan created fine drawings of the island of Madeira that were published as a book of lithographs called 'Sketches of Madeira' in (1851) which was the perfect partner to her husband's book of the same year, 'Sketch in Madeira' which was a handbook to the Portuguese island.
Many of the pictures in the album are illustrations of the works of Sir Walter Scott. The British nation mourned the loss of their beloved novelist in 1832. Scott's historical novels provided great source of inspiration for Lady Susan - you can see how his medieval romances would have been very in line with the then fashionable Gothic revival and were very popular with the new art movement of the time - the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Susan Harriet Holroyd grew up in a time when women were only just being considered capable of being fine artists - deemed by many only to have skills in the applied arts and crafts. In 1837 The British Government School of Design (which later became the Royal College of Art) opened its doors to women but only into a 'Female School' which treated their students rather differently with life classes consisting for many years with a man wearing a suit of armour! The Royal Academy Schools finally admitted women in 1861.
This album contains almost one hundred artworks by this very accomplished Victorian lady who's life and works have been a pleasure to research.
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