Edwardian scholars may be interested in the following exhibition, opening early next year:
Reclaiming Rose: Rose Dempster Bonnor, portrait painter (1874-1967),
Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham February – 27th April 2014
Rose Bonnor was a well-known, accomplished and prolific portrait painter of her day. Between 1894 and 1916 she exhibited thirteen paintings at the Royal Academy, eight at the Walker Gallery Liverpool and one each at the Manchester City Art Gallery and the Royal Institute of Oil Painters.
She had been a prize-winning student at Clapham School of Art, later the Camberwell School of Art, having a portrait first accepted at the Royal Academy in 1894 as a nineteen year old.
Altogether Rose produced at least eighty major portraits, many of well-known public figures. Her portrait of Lord Kenyon, lord-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V, attracted particular attention. A highly favourable review in the Evening News in 1916 concluded “…. a notable piece of work by a woman”. Lord Kenyon was one of many prominent people who commissioned a portrait from Rose. This, and the publicity such portraits attracted, established her reputation.
Rose’s style of painting was influenced by Rembrandt with shafts of light in dark interiors and by contemporary artists such as John Singer Sargent and Edvard Munch. She painted the portrait of her brother John in an identical pose to the self-portrait of Munch.
Rose belonged to a family of artists. Her great, great grandfather was the 18th century engraver Thomas Bonnor while her brother, John Bonnor with whom she shared a studio, was a renowned Arts & Crafts artist in fields as diverse as jewellery, sculpture and stained glass. Examples of the work of both Thomas and John are included in the exhibition.
The tragic and unexpected death of John Bonnor in 1917 at the age of forty one while he was sculpting St George and the Dragon on the Parliament buildings in Ottawa had a devastating effect on Rose. She appears to have lost much of her enthusiasm for painting and her output diminished.
Rose’s career was finally brought to an end in her fifties when she suffered severely impaired eyesight as a result of a skating accident.
Rose never married or had children. She appears to have enjoyed a close and long-term relationship with a person called Wilhemina of which Rose’s mother disapproved sufficiently strongly to disinherit her.
It is hoped that Reclaiming Rose will give pleasure from the work of a bygone artist and rekindle interest in the work of someone who has regrettably faded from public awareness.
The exhibition is curated by Annabel Bonnor Bloxham and Mark De Novellis.
Orleans House Gallery, Riverside, Twickenham TW1 3DJ
Gallery open: Tuesdays-Saturdays 1.00-4.30pm, 5.30pm from 1 April. Sundays 2.00-4.30pm, 5.30pm from 1 April.
Tel: 020 8831 6000