As someone who had a profound impact on the status of female artists in her home city, and who was celebrated for her radical approach towards the representation of women, Annie Swynnerton’s first retrospective in nearly 100 years seems well overdue. But better late than never.
Painting Light and Hope at Manchester Art Gallery will feature 36 paintings by the pioneering artist, suffragette and feminist campaigner who was born in Hulme, Manchester, in 1844 (died 1933). Her canvases are dominated by women of all ages and social backgrounds, rendered in a style that boldly challenged traditional conventions of beauty at the time. Tate curator Alison Smith described Swynnerton as “one of the most daring female painters of the nude, often shocking audiences with her robustly painted figures.” And as such, her work captures the burgeoning sense of female power, strength and hope at the turn of the 20th century, when women’s roles and opportunities in society were beginning to change.
Swynnerton co-founded the Manchester Society of Women Painters in 1879 with her studio partner Susan Dacre, offering art education as well as presenting exhibitions; and was elected the first female Associate Member of the Royal Academy in 1922. Her portraits feature many important feminists of the period, including Darce, while her landscapes reflect a highly independent style, shaped by her experience of light and colour in Italy, where she eventually settled with her husband (the sculptor Joseph Swynnerton).
Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see such a substantial body of this important female artist’s work in one place, and to learn more about her inspiring personality and politics.