Spotlight on Gallery 7: Frances Macdonald MacNair – ‘Child in a Rose Bowl’ (1899)

Art Sheds History, Art Sheds Teachers, Susan Forsyth

In Gallery 7, you can see a selection of artworks from the collections of the Victoria Gallery & Museum.  Susan Forsyth has hand-picked some of her favourite pieces, including pieces which she considers reflect the time and spirit of the Art Sheds and the professors and artists who taught there. Here, we look at one of those artworks in depth.

Child in a Rosebowl - Frances McNair


“This lovely painting was completed in 1899/1900, around the time Frances Macdonald moved to Liverpool to marry the Art Shed artist, John Herbert MacNair.  She exhibited at the 3rd Venice Biennial in the same year. ‘Child in a Rose Bowl’ is small but perfectly drawn and very ‘sympatico’ portrait of a young child.  Their much-loved son, Sylvan was born in Liverpool two years later.  Watercolour on vellum is unusual medium in the modern age.  As a gilder I share Frances Macdonald’s interest in exploring the use of ancient techniques.

“Frances Macdonald was actually born in England and moved to Glasgow when she was seventeen.  Along with MacNair, her sister Margaret and her sister’s husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Macdonald was one of the famous ‘Glasgow-Four’.

“Frances was a skilled craftswoman and taught enamelling and embroidery at the Art Sheds.  She was a talented designer and during her tenure in Liverpool exhibited her work in shows in London, Turin and Russia.  The Macdonald-MacNair Liverpool home at 54 Oxford Street became central to the wider Liverpool arts scene.  Frances returned to teach at the Glasgow School of Art in 1908, where she painted her best-known series of watercolours on the theme of motherhood and marriage. After her death in 1921 the grief-struck MacNair destroyed all her work, which may in part explain why Frances Macdonald is a less well-known artist than her talent deserves.”

The Art Sheds exhibition finishes this Saturday, 25th October 2014.


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