11. Victorian Women Sketchers

 March 14, 2021 “Victorian Women Sketchers”

Charlotte Watson (Derwent), Jedidiah Dore (Derwent) & Mário Linhares


In our eleventh episode, we visited with Charlotte Watson, Global Brand Manager at Derwent, and Jedidiah Dore, a Derwent Artist Ambassador. Charlotte told us about the history of Derwent, started by Ann Banks in 1832 in England’s Lake District as the world’s first graphite factory. Jedidiah joined us from Brooklyn to talk about Derwent’s new Line and Wash Paint Pan set. Jedidiah worked with Charlotte and other Derwent representatives to develop this kit for urban sketchers, which includes a combination of three different types of paint and Line Maker pens. A demonstration video showed Jedidiah in action on the streets of Queens, NY, capturing the feel and energy of the place on Derwent’s Inktense paper. The new set launches in the UK in April and worldwide in May, so keep an eye out for it!

Mário Linhares
image credit: Arthur de Paiva e Pona

Victorian Women Sketchers

Our resident art historian Mário Linhares joined us from Lisbon, Portugal, to talk about historical women sketchers. He said that while men are centered in the teaching of art history, information about women artists is out there but you have to search for it. He approached his research by reading the art history books he had in a different way, looking for the mention of women and conducting his own research from there.

Mário told us fascinating stories about seven women sketchers from the Victorian era. They traveled to distant places and worked on location, and as urban sketchers we can relate to that, but at that time it was an unusual occupation for a woman. These women were able to live this way because of their families’ wealth, but six out of the seven artists we discussed also chose not to get married and have children – a rare occurrence at that time.

We learned enough about these independent, intelligent, and fearless visionaries and explorers to inspire us to find out more for ourselves.

Marianne North (1830-1890) started painting and drawing at the age of 37, got hooked on painting in oils, and traveled the world painting plants in the context of their locations.

Amelia Edwards (1831-1892) is known as the Godmother of Egyptology for her work in developing it as a discipline. She was concerned with preserving the heritage of Egyptian monuments and documented them with drawings.

Olivia Tonge (1858-1949) tried to learn landscape painting from her father, but was unsuccessful at it. She later learned that the issue was her nearsightedness and she began to draw close-up objects from life, adding context with text. She traveled to India and filled 16 sketchbooks, focusing on what she could do, not what she couldn’t do.

Margaret Fountaine (1862-1940) was a naturalist and traveled the world to discover new species of butterflies as she sketched, painted, and wrote about them.

Margaret Mee (1909-1988) traveled to Brazil to teach and began painting flowers on location in the Amazon forest. For years she searched for the perfect specimen of moonflower, an Amazonian cactus, as it bloomed, which it only does for one night a year.

Alexandrine Tinne (1835-1869) was a Dutch explorer who traveled to North Africa to try to discover the source of the Nile. She fearlessly sailed the Nile and traversed the Sahara, sketching and taking rare photographs of North African women in the context of their daily lives.

Adela Breton (1849-1923), inspired by the Roman ruins in her hometown of Bath, England, was an archaeological artist and explorer. Her travels took her to Mexico where she documented newly discovered temples with drawings and paintings. She felt a responsibility to capture the images and colors of the temples and monuments and her work gives us an understanding of the ancient architecture of Mexico.

Book and Resource Recommendations

  • Marianne North: A Very Intrepid Painter by Michelle Payne
  • A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia Edwards
  • The Fateful Journey: The Expedition of Alexine Tinne and Theodor von Heuglin in Sudan (1863-1864) by Robert Joost Willink
  • Explorers’ Sketchbooks by Lewis Jones Hum
  • O’Hanlon Heroes season 2 on YouTube (show about Alexandrine Tinne)

Challenge: Woman of Action

Celebrate a woman you admire by talking to her, capturing her essence and likeness, and telling her story by sketching her in action.

Be sure to share your USk Talks Challenge sketches on Instagram using the hashtags #usktalks and #usktalkschallenge. Tag our guests in your challenge sketches, and follow them on Instagram: Derwent @derwentartoffical, Jedidiah Dore @jedidore, Mário Linhares @linhares.mr, and our host Rob Sketcherman @robsketcherman.

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