- Museum number
Study of Matilda Lowry (later Heming) standing at a sketching table; full-length, facing left. 1803
- Production date
Height: 182 millimetres
Width: 130 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The following text is from S. Lloyd and K. Sloan, 'The Intimate Portrait' (exh. SNPG & BM, 2008-9), cat. no. 102:
John Flaxman was as capable of capturing subtle moods and gestures in his drawings as in his sculpture, conveying them with a few very quick, simple yet sensitive lines. Here the artist paints at arm's length, standing back from her work in order to see its overall effect while painting, her gesture of hand to chest an unconscious and natural one indicating she is emotionally close to, even lost in her work. This drawing of Matilda Lowry was purchased with another showing her seated in a chair with her back to the viewer but her face turned in profile over her shoulder to the right, inscribed sketch of M. Lowry 1803.
In 1790, Flaxman wrote from Italy to his half-sister Mary Ann with advice about drawing, saying she should: 'always choose some affecting Action or sentiment for the subject of her composition, that she will observe attentively the actions of people engaged in conversation or employed in any way that affects the passions or affections, to consider their countenances, the Contour of their figures and their draperies, and particularly so to habituate herself in making perfect sketches from nature in a few Minutes' (cited in Bindman, 70). Mary Ann Flaxman exhibited miniatures, drawings and illustrations at the Free Society of Artists, the Society of Artists, and the Royal Academy between 1786 and 1819 but is best known for her illustrations to Hayley's ‘Triumphs of Temper’, engraved by Blake, and published in 1803, the year of these sketches of Matilda Lowry.
Matilda was the daughter of Wilson Lowry, a talented engraver who worked for Boydell and many other publishers and was a friend of Blake and Linnell. Matilda was his younger daughter and later married an astronomer named Hemming. She was awarded a Gold Medal by the Society of Arts in 1804 and exhibited miniatures, portraits and landscapes from 1805 to 1855. Her watercolour portrait of the mathematician and astronomer Mary Somerville is in the BM along with two marvellously natural landscape views of buildings and boats on the shore at Weymouth.
Various sketching societies flourished about this time. A drawing by Mary Ann Flaxman titled ‘A sketching party at the house of Wilson Lowry’ (V&A) records the occasion on which Flaxman's drawings of Mathilda were made. Dated 29 December 1803, it shows a group of men and women seated around a circular table, each at work on a drawing. The figures are initialled and can be identified as Maria Denman (Flaxman's sister-in-law), Elizabeth Mulready (John Varley's sister), Matilda Lowry, John Varley, an unidentified woman, and Varley's brother-in-law and pupil, William Mulready. The Lowrys remained friends with the Varleys and Matilda's younger half-sister Delvalle married John Varley as his second wife in 1825.
SELECTED LITERATURE: D. Bindman (ed.), ‘John Flaxman RA’, London, 1979; L. Stainton, ‘British Landscape Watercolours’, London, 1985, no. 168; J.T. Smith, ‘Nollekens and His Times’, 1828, pp. 182-3; S. Symmons, 'John Flaxman', Oxford DNB; M. Guyatt, 'Wilson Lowry', Oxford DNB
Matilda Lowry worked in the Linnell/Varley circle and later married a Mr Heming. The BM has watercolours by her (Stainton, British Landscape Watercolours, exh. BM 1985, no. 168).
One of two drawings of Matilda Lowry by John Flaxman acquired together (see 1996-9-28-1).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001 May-Sep BM, P&D, 'Paper Assets' (no cat.)
2008/9 Oct-Jan, Edinburgh, SNPG, 'The Intimate Portrait', no. 102
2009 Mar-May, London, BM, Room 90, 'The Intimate Portrait', no. 102
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number