ISABEL DE STEIGER’S ART WORKS: what and where she exhibited
AUGUST 2017 – comments by Sally Davis
This is a boring but necessary file of the raw data. When I went in search of paintings by Isabel, I looked through catalogues of the major exhibition venues in years from the early 1870s to the early 1900s. Google pointed me at some venues used by Isabel, that I’d never have heard of otherwise. Google also found me a few reviews of her work; usually just a pithy phrase, often without naming the painting! 1900 is a crucial date in Isabel’s life as an art professional: in August of that year, a fire destroyed all the paintings she still had in her possession and all her preparatory work. I only know for sure of one work which she began after that date.
I’m sure the lists below are not complete. Entire galleries will be missing because I haven’t discovered yet that Isabel exhibited in their shows. It’s likely, too, that Isabel showed more works after 1900 than I’ve managed to come across.
The exhibition galleries are in alphabetical order; which means that by far the most important is at the end – the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.
The information from the catalogues is laid out thus: page number/catalogue number/price if I know it/medium if I’ve been able to find it out/title and further details.
THE BASIC ART DICTIONARY SOURCES were a good place to start but the entries contained errors and were not complete. Isabel would have been very annoyed at some of the things they said about her!
Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940 compiled by J Johnson and A Greutzner. Antique Collectors’ Club 1976 p145.
Dictionary of British Art. Volume IV: Victorian Painters I: The Text. By Christopher Wood. Published Antique Collectors’ Club 1995: p138.
THE INDIVIDUAL GALLERIES which, as I say, is almost certainly incomplete.
BRITISH FINE ART GALLERY
I couldn’t find a catalogue of this exhibition, so the only information I have is from a review which doesn’t name the painting.
The Artist and Journal of Home Culture volume 3 1882 p207 issue of 1 July 1882 had a review of the first exhibition at this gallery, whose rooms were at 200 Regent Street. It was a new addition to London’s smaller art venues, intended by its directors to be open for the display and sale of art throughout the year. The review didn’t name any of the paintings in a show which the reviewer felt
had “a leaven of more or less meritorious” work amongst a lot of mediocre or even bad stuff. The reviewer mentioned Isabel’s one painting in the show, as one of the exhibition’s best, “forcible in colour and French in technique”. It was a “single figure” and I’m not going to speculate about which of Isabel’s works it might have been; it might all too easily be one I’ve never heard of.
No Grosvenor Gallery catalogue give prices for paintings which were for sale; interested buyers were asked to contact the gallery for further information.
In Memorabilia p159 Isabel mentioned some paintings in pastel that she showed at the Grosvenor Gallery: Phaedra; her portrait of Patience Sinnett; her portrait of Mabel Collins; and The Spirit of the Crystal. Works at the National Art Library indicate that there were two exhibitions with pastels in them at the Gallery, in late 1888 and early 1889. I haven’t been able to find any copies of the catalogues of the first of those two exhibitions. I seem to be missing one of the four paintings Isabel mentions – one of the two portraits - so I suppose it was in the late 1888 show.
I did find a catalogue of the second of the two: Grosvenor Gallery 2nd Pastel Exhibition 1889. In the list of exhibitors: p118. And in the list of paintings, just the one item:
p67 302 described only as Portrait.
Grosvenor Gallery First Exhibition of the Society of British Pastellists
The Society had only just been founded. The catalogue’s title page had a list of its current members; Isabel’s name was not on it. In the list of exhibitors p96. In the list of works:
p52 225 Phaedra. With a sub-title (Isabel’s quote marks) “The Pale Dark Queen with Passion in her Eyes”
p80 361 The Jewel with The Spirit of Diamonds.
I’m not sure whether catalogue number 361 is The Spirit of the Crystal, or some other painting altogether.
As MANCHESTER ROYAL INSTITUTION which turns into the city art gallery in 1883
I couldn’t find a catalogue for the 1880 exhibition but I did find a review of it, in which a work by Isabel was mentioned. As there were over one thousand items in the show, even a mention for Isabel’s painting was doing pretty well.
The Academy volume 18 1880 number 437 issue of 18 September1880 p209: review of the exhibition at the Royal Manchester Institution. Isabel was showing one of her ?four ‘Cleopatra’ paintings; unfortunately, there’s no clue here as to which one!
As MANCHESTER CITY ART GALLERY
I note from the catalogue to the 4th Autumn Exhibion 1886 that exhibitors were limited to a maximum of three works, and that works of “moderate size” would be given preference over larger paintings. Published Manchester: Henry Blacklock and Co of Albert Sq.
Corporation of Manchester Art Gallery, Royal Institution 2nd Autumn Exhibition. Manchester: Blacklock and Co. List of exhibitors p79. List of works:
p14 128 £35 oil Eureka! Eureka!
Corporation of Manchester Art Gallery, Royal Institution 8th Autumn Exhibition. Manchester: Henry Blacklock and Co of Albert Square. In the list of exhibitors: p59. In the list of works:
p22 239 £10/10 oil The Sunny South (Lyme Regis Bay).
Corporation of Manchester Art Gallery, Royal Institution 9th Autumn Exhibition. Manchester: Blacklock and Co. In the list of exhibitors p53. In the list of works:
p39 466 £10 oil A Summer Song (Study at Boscastle).
Corporation of Manchester Art Gallery, Royal Institution 10th Autumn Exhibition. Manchester: Blacklock. List of exhibitors p59. List of works:
p34 362 £50 oil A Song of the Greek Isles
p44 531 £100 oil The Princess Scheherazade.
NINETEENTH CENTURY ART SOCIETY
If it hadn’t been for google I wouldn’t have known about this particular venue. The Society seems to have come and gone in only a few years. There is information on its founder, the architect John Sulman (1849-1934) at adb.edu.au, the Australian DNB.
At www.19thc-artworldwide.org , the web pages of the London Gallery Project, there is some information on it including adverts from the Times. The Society’s premises were at 9 Conduit Street, off Regent Street, and according to an advert in Times 31 May 1883 they were open for the display and sale of paintings at any time, not just during the short-lived exhibitions held during the Social season. The Times 12 December 1883 p2 advertised the Society’s inaugural exhibition. Catalogues at the V&A show that Isabel was a member of the Society in the mid-1880s.
Nineteenth Century Art Society Exhibition Catalogue Autumn 1885. Members’ list p59. In the list of works:
P5 28 Portrait of Mary Tynte Potter; which wasn’t for sale
p18 172 £100 The Sorceress.
From p3: both Isabel’s works were in the large gallery, which was all oil paintings.
I found a scathing review of this particular exhibition in Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art published by J W Parker and Son. Volume 60 1885 p612. The reviewer declared that he (or possibly she) saw hardly anything in the exhbition that could “merit more than a shuddering glance”. He or she singled out Isabel’s works as not being as bad as most, saying that they “possess merit”; but The Sorceress had “flesh...hard and crude” with “detail full of ill-distributed accents”.
Nineteenth Century Art Society Exhibition Catalogue Summer 1886. Members’ list p55; p3 for both her exhibits being oil paintings. And from the list of works:
P22 224 £6/6 Strada Tiberio Capri
p24 253 £7/7 Villa Pompeiana.
Nineteenth Century Art Society Exhibition Catalogue Autumn 1886. List of members p49; p3 for both the works being oil paintings. And from the list of works:
p13 112 £8/8 An Odalisque: Cairo
p21 204 £12/12 A Lonely Beggar in a Lonely Road: Capri.
Nineteenth Century Art Society Exhibition Catalogue Spring 1887. List of members p50; p3 for all three works being in oils. And from the list of works:
P10 85 £10/10 The Fairy Syren (sic) of the Water Lilies
p13 116 £90 Harmonia
p20 205 £5/5 L’Amour de la Nuit - La Lune - Sur la Terrasse de l’Hotel; Impression du Voyage
“19th” Century Art Society Exhibition Catalogue Summer 1887. This was the last that the National Art Library had in its collection, possibly the last that was held. List of members p57. In the list of works:
p57 271 £9/9 oil Old Court, Daventry, Northamptonshire.
p49 539 £6/6 charcoal drawing The Rock Syren (sic) Singing the Storm Song
p50 540 £5/5 charcoal and red chalk Head of Beatrice
Les Peintres Britanniques dans les Salons Parisiens des Origines à 1939 by Béatrice Crespon-Halotier. Paris: L’Echelle de Jacob for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. 2002. I had a look in this but p490 had no entry for Isabel.
Isabel’s bête noir the ROYAL ACADEMY. I didn’t look at the individual catalogues.
Royal Academy Exhibitors from 1880 to 1904, which doesn’t list prices or whether the item was sold. Volume 1 A-D p312 just the one item:
1882 596 Mariamne.
Royal Academy Exhibitors 1905-70 E P Publishing 1977. Volume II p157 no entry for Isabel as ‘de Steiger’. Volume VI Sherr-Z published 1982 p75 no entry for Isabel as ‘Steiger, de’.
ROYAL ALBERT HALL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
None of these catalogues had a list of exhibitors, so I might have missed some works Isabel showed at this huge venue.
1879 which I think was the first ever
RAH of Arts and Sciences Catalogue of the Exhibition of Works of Modern Artists 1879. No named printer so I suppose the RAH does its own.
In the oils section two works by Isabel:
p23 307 £15/15 Cleopatra Personating (sic) the Goddess Isis
p29 405 Portrait of Mrs Patterson; which wasn’t for sale.
There were 1010 exhibits.
RAH of Arts and Sciences Catalogue of the Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture, Architectural Drawings and Wood Carving 1880. In the section on oil paintings, two works by Isabel:
p1 9 £75 Athyrtis, the Divine Daughter of Sesostris, Showing Herself at the Gate of the Temple
p2 24 £75 The Dismissal of Hagar.
RAH of Arts and Sciences Catalogue of the Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture, Architectural Drawings and Art Workmanship 1881. In the oils section, one work by Isabel (her quote marks):
p28 308 £35 “The Three Valkyrie Maidens - Messengers of the Gods, proclaiming from a lone rock in the Northern Ocean to the sea-birds and the fishes the death of Balder (sic) the Beautiful”.
RAH of Arts and Sciences Catalogue of the Exhibition of Paintings, Sculpture, Architectural Drawings. In the oil paintings section one work by Isabel:
p19 164 £20 Semiramide.
ROYAL HIBERNIAN ACADEMY OF ARTS. I didn’t look at individual catalogues.
Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts: Index of Exihibitors 1826-1979 compiled by Ann M Stewart. Volume 1: A-G. Dublin: Manton Publishing 1986. On p210:
1877 164 £20 Mansours
1882 434 £12/12 Morning Effect
1883 73 £35 The Valkyrie Maidens
1885 98 £100 The Enchantress
1887 296 - Portrait of Miss Romola Tynte
1894 344 £15/15 A Garland of Roses
391 £15/15 Lavinia
The entries don’t make clear what media the works had been painted in.
Now known as the ROYAL INSTITUTE OF OIL PAINTERS but called the INSTITUTE OF PAINTERS IN OIL COLOURS when Isabel exhibited her one painting there.
Institute of Painters in Oil Colours catalogue of its first exhibition, held at the Piccadilly Gallery. On pp3-4 there was a list of current members: all men, of course. There was no indication in the catalogue of which works were for sale; and no prices were printed. In the list of exhibitors: p46. In the list of works:
p35 60 The Greek Captive and her Nubian Slave.
ROYAL SCOTTISH ACADEMY. I didn’t look at individual catalogues.
Isabel was never an Academy member: The Royal Scottish Academy 1826-1916. Originally published 1917. The British Library’s copy is Kingsmead Reprints 1975: p384 Isabel isn’t listed.
The Royal Scottish Academy Exhibitors 1826-1990 editor Charles Baile de Laperrière. Volume 4: R-Z. Calne: Hilmarton Manor Press 1991. There are no indications as to whether the paintings were for sale; nor which medium they had been painted in. On p615 works by Isabel:
1883 393 Semiramis
543 The Fair Slave Enees-el-Jelees. Arabian Nights.
1884 548 The Valkyrie Maidens Proclaiming the Death of the Sun God Balder the Beautiful
1895 68 The Lorelei Maiden Singing to the Fishermen Below.
ROYAL SOCIETY OF ARTISTS BIRMINGHAM which changed its name spring 1885 to ROYAL BIRMINGHAM SOCIETY OF ARTISTS.
RSA Birmingham Autumn Exhibition. In the list of exhibitors: p80. In the list of works:
p27 162 £10 Abd-el-Rahman
p32 270 £25 Semiramis
RSA Birmingham Autumn Exhibition. In the list of exhibitors: p70. In the list of works:
p41 440 £20 The Veiling of Isis
p52 645 £45 The Valkyrie Maidens.
P59 799 £6/6 watercolour drawing Fireside Harmony.
RBS Artists 66th Autumn Exhibition. In the list of exhibitors: p73. In the list of works:
p36 313 £7/7 oil Au Jardin Hôtel du Cygne Montreux
p64 892 £15/15 watercolour painting A Garland of Roses.
RBS Artists 28th Spring Exhibition. In the list of exhibitors: p66. In the list of works:
p54 637 £10/10 The Flight of Aurora
p54 639 £10/10 The Chariot of Venus.
ROYAL SOCIETY OF BRITISH ARTISTS
Isabel was not a member of the Society - she was not in either of these two volumes: RSBA Exhibitors 1824-1892 and 1893-1910. Compiler Maurice Bradshaw, secretary general of the Federation of British Artists. Published 1973 F Lewis Publishers Ltd of The Tithe House, Leigh-on-Sea.
Exhibitors at The Royal Society of British Artists 1824-1893 and The New English Art Club 1888-1917 compiled by Jane Johnson. Antique Collectors’ Club Research Project. First printed 1975; the V&A’s copy is the reprint of 1993. On p130:
1879/80 21 £40 Cleopatra’s Deadly Resolve in the Temple of Isis
1881 500 £7 A Dancing Girl.
Known in Isabel’s time as the SOCIETY OF LADY ARTISTS, now the SOCIETY OF WOMEN ARTISTS
The Society of Women Artists Exhibitors 1855-1996 editor Charles Baile de Laperrière, compiler Joanna Soden. Hilmarton Manor Press 1996. Volume 1 A-D p328:
1878 354 £16 Slave Girl of the Harem
298 £16 Consuelo
401 - Mrs Patterson
1879 768 £8 A Daughter of the Gods
1881 632 £5 Shatucha the Bedouin Girl (Egypt) ; which was a sketch
651 £8 Spanish Tambourine Girl
1887 267 £10 The First Blossom of Spring: Almond Blossom, Capri, Italy
I found some infuriating coverage of the 1878 exhibition in the Times Mon 18 March 1878 p4: a patronising report which began by noting with approval that in the 20 years since the Society was founded, women artists had come to accept that the ‘great’ subject matter of art was not and never would be their “calling”. The review was careful to include only references to paintings which fitted this belief - landscapes and flower-paintings, for example - so that Isabel’s portrait and her two works either genre or ‘great’ were not mentioned. The exhibition was at the Society’s own rooms in Great Marlborough Street. 800 works were being shown, about half the number that had been submitted for selection.
The hiatus in exhibits by Isabel at the LSA between 1881 and 1887 started as a result of a letter by Isabel published in The Artist and Journal of Home Culture issue of July 1882). On Memorabilia p109 Isabel says that the LSA refused one work she submitted, the year after the letter appeared ie 1883.
Last but most definitely not least: the WALKER ART GALLERY LIVERPOOL where Isabel felt on home ground: both as a woman born in the city, and as an artist with acquaintances on the Corporation’s Exhibition committees. The Walker was where she chose to show her very earliest works, in the early 1870s, before she even thought of herself as properly trained. In the next 25 years or so she showed more works at the Walker than anywhere else; including her only sculpture.
In the lists below, unless I say otherwise, Isabel’s exhibited works are oil paintings.
4th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures in Oil and Watercolours. In the list of exhibitors and still with an address in Egypt: p47. In the list of works:
P3 6 £13/13 The Coming Squall - Meditt - Ramle Egypt
11 £11 title line left blank but there’s a quote beginning next line down:
“Basking in Heaven’s serenest light
Those groups of lovely palm trees bright”.
P12 220 £11 Philae Egypt. With a quote below, from Lalla Rookh:
“The ruined shrines and towers that seem
The relics of a splendid dream” .
5th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures. In the list of exhibitors p47. In the list of works:
P13 277 £15 Hagar in the Desert
p16 342 £10/10 The Evening Meal, Ramle Egypt
p17 364 £30 Mansours Tent
p18 405 £20 On the Road to Aboukir.
9th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures. In the list of exhibitors: p121. In the list of works:
p19 187 £70 Cleopatra Receiving an Unfavourable Oracle from the Priestess
p38 518 £5/5 A Daughter of the Gods
10th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures. In the list of exhibitors: p82. In the list of works:
P35 494 £125 The Princess Scheherezada (sic) daughter of the Grand Vizier, thinking of the Story She is going to relate at Night. Arabian Nights
11th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures. In the list of exhibitors: p121. In the list of works:
p64 1066 £6/10 An Eastern Dancing Girl
12th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures. In the list of exhibitors: p132. In the list of works:
p23 261 £10/0 Mariamne
13th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures. In the list of exhibitors: p135. In the list of works:
P16 149 £100 The Enchantress
p80 1416 £35 The Lorelei Maiden, (Isabel’s quote marks) “Sitting on a Rock over the Whirlpool, singing to the Fishermen Below”.
14th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures. In the list of exhibitors: p179. In the list of works:
P20 266 £25 A Dream of Hermes
p74 1213 £15 Nature and Art
15th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures. In the list of exhibitors: p124. In the list of works:
P75 1254 £10 (Isabel’s quote marks) “Trust her not, she is fooling thee”
16th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures. In the list of exhibitors: p115. In the list of works:
P12 93 £47/10 (Isabel’s quote marks) “The Valkyrie Maidens (vide Robert Buchanan’s Poem)”
p65 1071 £31/10 (Isabel’s quote marks) “The Lost Pleiad. Blind Merope - Hope Abandoned. Vide Edwin Arnold”
17th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures. In the list of exhibitors: p109. In the list of works:
p66 1126 £25/10 A Legend of the Soul - Persephone Sinking into the Abyss of Hades. With this long quote:
“Persephone, wilfully straying from the Mansions of Heaven, falls under the power of the Hadean God, in other words Persephone typifying the Soul sinks into the profound depths of a material nature. Hermes Trismegistus”.
1127 £6/6 Impression de Voyage
[18th] Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures 1888. In the list of exhibitors: p7. In the list of works:
p51a 1261 £100 Celebration of the Mysteries.
Again there’s a long quote:
“Celebration of one of the Mysteries in the Temple of Isis. The Roman lady, having no Pass-word, is refused admittance by the Priestess. Roman Period.”
19th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures. In the list of exhibitors: p135. In the list of works:
P54 in Room VI which is watercolour drawings
936 £15/15 pastel The Flight of Aurora
p43 in Room V which is all oil paintings
722 £10/10 The First Blush of Spring - Capri
Missing its front cover but 20th Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures. In the list of exhibitors: p122. In the list of works:
p6 4 £25 oil Phaedra Meditating on her Revenge.
With this addendum, apparently a quote from the Epic of Hades: “The Dark Pale Queen, with Passion in her Eyes”.
21st Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures. Isabel was in the list of exhibitors though the page had lost its page number. In the list of works though again no page numbers have survived:
935 £15 pastel A Garland of Roses
1208 £20 pastel The Spirit of the Crystal.
22nd Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures, again with page numbers missing. Isabel is in the list of exhibitors. In the list of works, again with no page numbers:
172 £10 oil Daffodils
679 £25 watercolour drawing An Avenging Angel
1085 £110 oil Andromeda Abandoned
1338 £2/2 wax-clay in one of the sculpture galleries: A Toadstool.
Isabel didn’t exhibit any works at the Walker Art Gallery in the years 1893 to 1897. I’m not sure about 1898 to 1899 as I haven’t been able to find a copy of the catalogues for those two years. Isabel didn’t exhibit anything in 1900 – that year’s exhibition started only a few weeks after the fire.
31st Autumn Exhibition of Modern Pictures in Oil and Watercolours. In the list of exhibitors: p127. In the list of works:
P7 in Room I which is all oil paintings
39 £6/6 The Rose Garden, Clarens, Lake of Geneva
P71 in Room VIII which is all oil paintings
1107 £8/8 Sunset in the Marshes, Rhos Neigr Anglesea
There are few catalogues of the Walker Art Gallery exhibitions in the main London art libraries from after 1901. I couldn’t find any paintings by Isabel in the one or two that I was able to look at.
?1926 catalogue number unknown £150 oil Castles in the Air.
I have not seen the catalogue to the Walker’s 1926 autumn exhibition so I can’t confirm that Castles… was shown in it. Isabel certainly intended to display it there: on Memorabilia p280 she says so, and various pieces of paper stuck to the back of the frame show that she sent it to a firm of picture-framers in Liverpool to get it ready. Note that it was for sale: such a personal picture, I’m surprised she could contemplate parting with it.
COPYRIGHT SALLY DAVIS
18 September 2017
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