Marie Spartali Stillman

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Marie Euphrosyne Spartali
Marie Spartali 1868.jpg
Marie Spartali Stillman,1868,
photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron.
Born
Marie Euphrosyne Spartali

(1844-03-10)10 March 1844
Died6 March 1927(1927-03-06) (aged 82)
London, England, United Kingdom
NationalityBritish
Known forPainter

Marie Euphrosyne Spartali (Greek: Μαρία Ευφροσύνη Σπαρτάλη), later Stillman (10 March 1844 – 6 March 1927), was a British member of the second generation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Though her work with the Brotherhood began as a favorite model, she soon trained and became a respected painter in her own right, earning praise from Dante Gabriel Rossetti and others. Of the Pre-Raphaelites, she had one of the longest-running careers, spanning sixty years and producing over one hundred and fifty works.

Personal life[edit]

Family history[edit]

Marie Spartali was the eldest daughter [1] of Michael Spartali (1818–1914), a wealthy merchant, principal of the firm Spartali & Co and Greek consul-general based in London from 1866 to 1879. He had moved to London around 1828, where he married Euphrosyne (known as Effie, née Varsami; 1825–1913), the daughter of a Greek merchant from Genoa. [2]

The family split time between their home in Clapham Common (London) and their country home on the Isle of Wight. In the city, Spartali’s father was fond of lavish garden parties where he invited up and coming writers and artists. It was at one such event where Marie would first be introduced to the art world.[3]

Marriage and death[edit]

In 1870, Spartali met American journalist and painter William J. Stillman. The couple had previously posed for Rossetti in his famous Dante pictures, though it is not certain if that is how they first met. Interestingly, despite being an artist himself, Marie never sat for her husband as a model. This is likely because it was not uncommon for artists to become infatuated with their muses only to lose interest years later, a pattern she no doubt witnessed within her circle many times. The pair married in 1871 against her father's wishes, causing a rift that would never fully heal. [4]

As a foreign correspondent for The Times, the couple divided their time between London and Florence (1878-1883), and later Rome (1889-1896). [4]

The couple had three children of their own and were raised alongside William’s other three children from a previous marriage.  William Stillman died in 1901. Marie Spartali died in March 1927 in Ashburn Place in South Kensington, four days shy of her 83rd birthday. Spartali Stillman was cremated at Brookwood Cemetery, near Woking, Surrey, and is interred there with her husband. The grave is marked by a simple lawn headstone.

Art and career[edit]

Mariana by Marie Spartali-Stillman (1867–1869)
Love's Messenger, 1885 by Stillman, is exhibited in the Delaware Art Museum

Introduction to the Art World[edit]

Known for their Greek heritage and beauty, Spartali along with her cousins, Maria Zambaco and Aglaia Coronio, were known collectively among friends as "the Three Graces," after the Charites of Greek mythology (Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia). Beauty aside, Marie cut an imposing figure, standing at 1.9 meters (6ft 3) and, in her later years, dressed entirely in black, purposefully attracting much attention throughout her life. [5]

In the house of the Greek businessman A.C. Ionides at Tulse Hill, in south London, Marie first met artist James Abbot McNeil Whistler and playwright Algernon Charles Swinburne. The meeting made quite the impression, for Swinburne was reported to have said that "She is so beautiful that I want to sit down and cry". [5] [6]

The Pre-Raphaelites[edit]

In 1864, Whistler introduced Spartali to the Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rosetti.[7] She began sitting for him and when Spartali expressed interest in learning to paint he referred her to Ford Madox Brown. Over the next five years the pair developed a close, almost familial, relationship.[8] Of his models, Brown said that Spartali was “the most intellectual,” and maintained a deep respect for her work, chronicled in their correspondence. By 1870, Spartali had decided to pursue art professionally and with the help of her mentor made her first sale for 40 guineas. [8]

  Example of modeling works: Brown; Burne-Jones (The Mill); Julia Margaret Cameron; Rossetti (A Vision of Fiammetta, Dante's Dream at the Time of the Death of Beatrice, The Bower Meadow); and Spencer Stanhope.

Style[edit]

Because of her close links to the Brotherhood Spartali-Stillman is often identified as part of the second generation of the movement. According to Henry James, “She inherited the traditions and the temper of the original PRs...but she has come into her heritage by virtue or natural relationship. She is a spontaneous, sincere, naive Pre-Raphaelite.”[9]

There is, however, some academic debate as to whether this is entirely accurate. For example, Robert de la Sizeranne of Le Correspondant noted that this new generation of Pre-Raphaelites, Spartali-Stillman among them, had enough in common with the Symbolists to be considered one.[10] Marie Spartali Stillman, could be considered a candidate for Symbolism because her figures "... have an immobility, a silence, a pose almost suspended, a slow hesitation in their rare movements, which make them resemble something like sleepwalkers.” [9] [10] Rosetti himself credited Spartali for her ability to infuse her figures with emotion, thereby elevating them to something more than mere images. [9] [10]

Other influences and career impacts[edit]
Dante at Verona by Marie Spartali-Stillman (1888)

In 1873 both her young daughter, Euphrosyne "Effie," and her sister Christina fell ill. Stillman wrote to Ford Madox Brown that she was preoccupied with their health and felt "too weak to paint." She later clarified that whenever she did work she found herself depicting her sister in a grim state. Because of this, she took some time off painting, however Madox-Brown always speculated that she stopped because of her husband's jealousy over her successful career and continued relationship with himself. [11]

Alongside her husband, Spartali-Stillman lived in Florence, Italy for a number of years. She took great inspiration from the city around her which can be seen most prominently in her subject matter. Being in the city of Dante Alighieri, she depicted numerous scenes from the Divine Comedy, focusing in particular on the romance between Dante and Beatrice. [11]

Though separated from her peers, Spartali-Stillman maintained her correspondence with the PRB and Rosetti in particular who shared her love of Dante. [12] [11]

Exhibitions[edit]

The subjects of her paintings were typical of the Pre-Raphaelites: female figures; scenes from Shakespeare, Petrarch, Dante and Boccaccio; also Italian landscapes. She exhibited at the Dudley Gallery in 1875, then at the Grosvenor Gallery and its successor, the New Gallery; at the Royal Academy; and at various galleries in the eastern USA, including the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. Stillman exhibited her work at the Palace of Fine Arts at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. A retrospective show of her work took place in the United States in 1982, and another one at the Delaware Art Museum in 2015. The latter show transferred to the UK in 2016, opening at the Watts Gallery at Compton near Guildford in Surrey on 1 March 2016 until 5 June 2016.

Works (Incomplete)[edit]

Love's Messenger by Marie Spartali Stillman (1885)

David Elliott lists more than 170 works in his book. The following are the better-known works, as determined by their mention in other books which discuss the artist.

Madonna Pietra degli Scrovigni by Marie Spartali Stillman (1884)

  • Self-Portrait (1871; Delaware Art Museum)
  • Self-Portrait in Medieval Dress (1874)
  • Gathering Orange Blossoms (1879; St. Lawrence University)
  • The Meeting of Dante and Beatrice on All Saints' Day (1881)
  • Madonna Pietra degli Scrovigni (1884; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool)
  • Love's Messenger (1885; Delaware Art Museum)
  • A Florentine Lily (c.1885–1890; Private collection)
  • The May Feast at the House of Folco Portinari, 1274 (1887)
  • Dante at Verona (1888; Private collection)
  • Upon a Day Came Sorrow unto Me (1888)
  • A Florentine Lily (c.1885–1890)
  • A Florentine Wedding Feast (1890)
  • Messer Ansaldo showing Madonna Dionara his Enchanted Garden (1889) This illustrates a tale from The Decameron, see Summary of Decameron tales
  • Convent Lily (1891)
  • Cloister Lilies (1891; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)
  • Dante and Beatrice, Scene from the Vita Nuova (1891)
  • Saint George (1892; Delaware Art Museum)
  • How the Virgin Mary came to Brother Conrad of Offida and laid her Son in his Arms (1892; Wightwick Manor, National Trust, UK)
  • A Rose from Armida's Garden (1894)
  • Love Sonnets (1894; Delaware Art Museum)
  • Beatrice (1896; Delaware Art Museum)
  • Portrait of Mrs W. St Clair Baddeley (1896)
  • Beatrice (1898; Private collection)
  • The Pilgrim Folk (1914; Delaware Art Museum)

Notes[edit]

  • Dyson, Stephen L. (2014). The LAST AMATEUR The Life of William J. Stillman. New York: State University of New York.
  • Marsh, Jan; Pamela Gerrish Nunn (1998). Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists. London: Thames and Hudson. pp. 131–135. ISBN 0-500-28104-1.
  • Stillman, William James (1901). Autobiography of a Journalist. London: Grant Richards.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dimitrios SPARTALI & Christina (Ioannes) Mavrogordato". www.christopherlong.co.uk. Retrieved 23 July 2017
  2. ^ Vasos Tsibidaros. Oi Ellines stin Anglia (The Greeks in England). Athens: Alkaios, 1974.
  3. ^ Robertson, W. Graham. Time Was. (1931) pp.12–13
  4. ^ a b Elliot, David B. (2005). A Pre-Raphaelite Marriage: The Lives and Works of Marie Spartali Stillman and William James Stillman. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors' Club
  5. ^ a b Robertson, W. Graham. Time Was. (1931) pp.12–13
  6. ^ Waterman, Amanda B. Neo-Pre-Raphaelitism: The Final Generations, University of Washington, 2016.
  7. ^ Waterman, Amanda B. Neo-Pre-Raphaelitism: The Final Generations, University of Washington, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Elliot, David B. (2005). A Pre-Raphaelite Marriage: The Lives and Works of Marie Spartali Stillman and William James Stillman. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors' Club
  9. ^ a b c Waterman, Amanda B. Neo-Pre-Raphaelitism: The Final Generations, University of Washington, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c Casteras, Susan (1995). The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy to Symbolism. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 39.
  11. ^ a b c Elliot, David B. (2005). A Pre-Raphaelite Marriage: The Lives and Works of Marie Spartali Stillman and William James Stillman. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors' Club
  12. ^ Waterman, Amanda B. Neo-Pre-Raphaelitism: The Final Generations, University of Washington, 2016.
  1. Waterman, Amanda B. Neo-Pre-Raphaelitism: The Final Generations , University of Washington, 2016.
  2. ^ Dimitrios SPARTALI & Christina (Ioannes) Mavrogordato". www.christopherlong.co.uk. Retrieved 23 July 2017
  3. ^ Vasos Tsibidaros. Oi Ellines stin Anglia (The Greeks in England). Athens: Alkaios, 1974.
  4. ^ Robertson, W. Graham. Time Was. (1931) pp.12–13
  5. Elliot, David B. (2005). A Pre-Raphaelite Marriage: The Lives and Works of Marie Spartali Stillman and William James Stillman. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors' Club
  6. Dyson, Stephen L. (2014). The LAST AMATEUR The Life of William J. Stillman. New York: State University of New York.
  7. Casteras, Susan (1995). The Pre-Raphaelite Legacy to Symbolism. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. p. 39.
  8. ^ Rossetti, Dante Gabriel (23 July 2017). "The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Chelsea years, 1863-1872, prelude to crisis : 1863-1867". Boydell & Brewer. Retrieved 23 July 2017 – via Google Books.
  9. ^ Nichols, K. L. "Women's Art at the World's Columbian Fair & Exposition, Chicago 1893". Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  10. ^ POETRY IN BEAUTY: THE PRE-RAPHAELITE ART OF MARIE SPARTALI STILLMAN, website
  11. ^ Collins, Maxine (9 November 2015). "Marie Spartali Stillman: The female artist time forgot". BBC. Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  12. ^ "Marie Spartali Stillman: The Enchanted Garden of Messer Ansaldo". ArtMagick. Archived from the original on 8 March 2016.

External links[edit]

Media related to Marie Spartali Stillman at Wikimedia Commons