Friday, February 10, 2012

Lady Butler: War Artist

Elizabeth Thompson before marrying in 1877
Though only nine years old at the time of Crimea, Elizabeth Southerden “Mimi” Thompson (known to art history as Lady Butler) painted a series of famous military depictions including events from the Crimean War. Born 3 November 1846 in Switzerland, Elizabeth Thompson grew up in Italy but it was upon her visit to Paris in 1866 that she turned her artistic endeavours to military painting upon viewing the work of Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier and Édouard Detaille. Marrying the soldier Sir William Francis Butler on 11 June 1877 Elizabeth Butler continued to paint, winning great acclaim whilst raising her six children. After taking up residence in Bansha Castle, county Tipperary Elizabeth was eventually widowed in 1910 but continued to paint until 83 after which she finally died at Gormanston Castle on 2 October 1933 at the age of 87.
The Roll Call by Lady Butler (1874)
Her second military oil painting and the one which won her the most acclaim was Elizabeth’s Calling the Roll After An Engagement, Crimea more commonly referred to as The Roll Call (1874) which she finished at the age of 27. This painting is meditative and is war painting as opposed to a more traditional battle painting depicting the consequences of action, in this case being a muster of the Grenadier Guards in the snow.  The group is of the common soldiery, in this case the Guardsmen and NCOs who are highly individualised. Queen Victoria purchased this prized work which remains housed at Buckingham Palace.
Balaclava by Lady Butler (1876)
Of more significance to this Blog is her oil painting Balaclava (1876) showing the mustered remnants of the Light Brigade after their fateful charge.  Again, highly individualised portraiture, full of expression and particularly detailed, a feature of her painting for which Lady Butler was renown. This great artistic work is housed in the City of Manchester Art Gallery.
The Return from Inkerman by Lady Butler (1877)
Her final Crimean War painting, The Return from Inkernman (1877) depicts the survivors from the Coldstream Guards and the 20th East Devonshire Regiment and can be found in the Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston upon Hull.

1 comment:

  1. I have to say that I'm a great fan of the Balaclava painting and have often toyed with the idea of recreating using 28mm; as usual this has got no further than a pipe dream at present!