Tag Archives: Edwardian interiors

Ten Restful Ladies (1900-1904)

Ambrose McEvoy, 'The Letter', c.1904

Ambrose McEvoy, ‘The Letter’, c.1904

‘For the past few years the New English Art Club has been dominated by the personalities of a few members who have made the domestic picture the dominant note of the club’s exhibitions. I do not mean the millinery-baby domestic picture of the Royal Academy, rather the home picture of the Dutch School. The explanation is simple enough. Mr. Orpen, Mr. Rothenstein, Mr. Russell, Mr. Muirhead have chosen to paint the rooms in which they live, and the choice and simple possessions that an artist gathers about him. This example of dogged hard work has been infectious’ (C L H, The Academy and Literature, Nov 15th, 1902)

In light of this review, and this short article, here is a selection of ten early Edwardian representations of the domestic interior (or, as Max Beerbohm once put it, ‘restful ladies in dim or sunny rooms’). All artists featured were regular exhibitors at the New England Art Club at the turn of the century.

Please feel free to put forward your own suggestions/favourites in the comments!

1. William Rothenstein, The Browning Readers, 1900

2. William Orpen, The Mirror, 1900

3. Henry Tonks, Rosamund and the Purple Jar, 1900

4. Philip Wilson Steer, Hydrangeas, 1901

5. Mary MacEvoy, Interior: Girl Reading, 1902

6. Francis Dodd, Afternoon in the Parlour, 1902

7. Ambrose McEvoy, The Letter, 1904

8. David Muirhead, Night Shadows, c.1900

9. Walter Sickert, La Nera, 1903

10. Harold Gilman, Grace Canedy, c.1904


Review: Representing Homes from the Victorians to the Moderns


Domestic Interiors: Representing Homes from the Victorians to the Moderns, ed. Georgina Downey (Bloomsbury, London, 2013)

“Interiors” are the very things which all the younger men are industriously striving to paint. Restful ladies in dim or sunny rooms, in the midst of their own pretty furniture, and sometimes raptly nursing their own pretty babies – these, nowadays, are the ends of every young painter’s desire. Alas for the vanity of the endeavour!’ (Max Beerbohm, The Saturday Review, 18th April 1903)

As this comment suggests, the domestic interior was something of an obsession among Edwardian artists. Around the turn of the century, the bi-annual exhibitions of the New English Art Club were overwhelmed by a flood of paintings depicting (in the words of one disgruntled critic) ‘dingy London rooms with plain walls, highly polished furniture, a green door or dado, one figure or more, and frequently a green-shaded lamp’.[1] There were several key inspirations behind this cult, ranging from contemporary Scandinavian drama and the popularity of seventeenth-century Dutch art, to the ever-pressing desire of the artistic community to make their mark on interior design. That this ambition fell under the purview of the painter was never in doubt; not for a generation who had grown up with the names of Rossetti and Whistler ringing in their ears. In the early 1900s, the domestic interior was a battlefield containing several armies of competing tastes; a subject on which almost everyone had an opinion or a preference. It was much more than a matter of dados or lamps: the interior was the space in which identities were made. Continue reading