Reviewed | Charlotte Yeldham’s ‘Maria Spilsbury’

Posted in books, reviews by Editor on April 7, 2012

Recently added to caa.reviews:

Charlotte Yeldham, Maria Spilsbury (1776–1820): Artist and Evangelical (Burlington: Ashgate, 2010). 230 pages, ISBN: 9780754669913, $125.

Reviewed by Jonathan Rinck, Spring Arbor University; posted 22 March 2012.

In her short biographical work ‘Father and Daughter: Jonathan and Maria Spilsbury’ (London: Epworth, 1952), Ruth Young, a descendant of Maria Spilsbury (Spilsbury-Taylor, after her marriage in 1808), recounts a delightful anecdote in which the future King George IV visited Spilsbury’s studio on St. George’s Row, London. Impatient with how slowly work was progressing on his commission which, to his judgment, seemed complete, he exclaimed, ‘Really, Mrs. Taylor, I swear that you can do no more to that! You’ve finished it and a damned good picture it is’. Unconvinced, Spilsbury sought a second opinion from her maid. Upon close inspection, the maid astutely pointed out that, distressingly, the woman sewing in the painting still lacked a thimble. At this, the exasperated prince, Young writes, chased the maid out of the room, ‘her cap-strings flying’ (32). Any other artist might have obligingly yielded to the prince, but such was Spilsbury’s notoriety that visits from the Prince Regent, her chief patron, were merely commonplace.

In spite of her success and popularity, astonishingly little scholarly attention has been given to Spilsbury. Redressing this problem, Charlotte Yeldham’s ‘Maria Spilsbury (1776–1820): Artist and Evangelical’ fills a void that has remained embarrassingly vacant for too long. Additionally, Yeldham offers special attention to the influence of the Evangelical faith upon Spilsbury’s art, a topic which has also been largely ignored, not merely in the life of Spilsbury, but in the larger context of late eighteenth-century artists in general. On both fronts, this book will prove to be an invaluable and authoritative contribution to Spilsbury scholarship.

In the introduction, Yeldham writes that the intent of her book is to give attention to an artist who exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of fifteen, was exhibited at the British Institution, is represented in public and private collections in England, Ireland, America, Australia, and New Zealand, and frequently present in auction houses, yet of whom very little is known . . .

The full review is available here» (CAA membership required)

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