Annie Swynnerton: Painting Light and Hope is the first retrospective of the Manchester-born artist for nearly a century. This fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery, which ran from 23rd February 2018 to 6th January 2019.
The pioneering painter represented women of all ages and walks of life, challenging conventions of beauty and capturing female power, strength, hope and potential at a time when women’s roles and opportunities were changing.
Swynnerton first visited Rome in 1874, living for extended periods there between 1883 and 1910. Italy had a visual impact on her work: the artist used vibrant colours and gestural brushwork in her portrayals of women. Many of these works are highlighted in Manchester Art Gallery's exhibition.
Her shimmering nudes, winged figures and portraits of suffragettes show the importance of female networks and solidarity to Swynnerton’s art. As well as being a successful artist, she was a passionate supporter of women’s right to vote for over three decades. She also campaigned for better opportunities for women artists, setting up the Manchester Society of Women Painters, and challenging the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts to open up membership, exhibitions and training to women.
In the 1870s and 1880s, along with Isabel Dacre, Swynnerton studied art and attended art classes at progressive institutions such as the Académie Julian in Paris, as part of a new generation of women who travelled to further their artistic studies.
Swynnerton exhibited internationally, including at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris in 1905. This brought her to the attention of Auguste Rodin who praised her work. Like Rodin, Swynnerton experimented with figurative abstraction in her later paintings. Manchester Art Gallery’s Rodin sculptures Eve and The Age of Bronze will be on display during the exhibition run.
The first publication dedicated to Swynnerton’s work, the catalogue features thematic essays and lively texts on each artwork by the exhibition curators.
Authors: Katie J. T. Herrington, Rebecca Milner