Exhibition | Anne Seymour Damer: Sculpture and Society

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on October 26, 2014

Now on view at Strawberry Hill:

Anne Seymour Damer: Sculpture and Society
Strawberry Hill, Twickenham (London), 11 August — 9 November 2014


Anne Seymour Damer, Shock Dog, 1780

Anne Damer was the daughter of Horace Walpole’s favourite cousin, Henry Seymour Conway. Born into a life of luxury in 1748, Anne was subjected to an arranged marriage in 1767 to John Damer, a man she neither knew or liked. Her husband’s bankruptcy and subsequent suicide led her to turn to a different life as a sculpture. In marble, terracotta or bronze, Anne Damer modelled friends, family and their animals, and also political heroes, including Admiral Nelson. Anne Damer’s art provides a wealth of insight into nineteenthcentury British sculpture, including the negative reactions towards the work of a woman. Living through the turbulent times, Anne Damer mixed sculpture with acting, writing and travel. Many of her friends included leading members of the political, arts and theatre world and with Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire she became known as one of the fashionable set of ladies of London.

halloween The 3 Witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth Daniel Gardner 1775 Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire,Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne sculptor Anne Seymour Damer

Daniel Gardner, The Three Witches from Macbeth (Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; Anne Seymour Damer), 1775 (London, National Portrait Gallery).

Horace Walpole played a significant role in Anne Damer’s life as he was her godfather and encouraged her interest in sculpture. Indeed, she developed a triangular friendship with her godfather and his protégée, Mary Berry. Horace’s affection for Anne Damer was shown in the bequest of his house to her, enabling her to live and work at Strawberry Hill until 1811. Her studio was part of Walpole’s printing house, part of which still survives today.

For the first time, Anne Damer’s life and work will be formally shown to the general public at Strawberry Hill. The exhibition, which is supported by The Henry Moore Foundation and Rainer Zietz, will showcase some of her sculptures, many from private collections and her anatomy drawing book, personal objects and a rare set of her prompt copies of plays performed at Richmond House and Strawberry Hill. The painting of The Three Witches from Macbeth (Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, Anne Seymour Damer) by Daniel Gardner will also be displayed courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Michael Snodin, Chairman of the Trustees of Strawberry Hill Trust said, “Anne Seymour Damer: Sculpture and Society is one of a series of exhibitions on subjects related to Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill. Anne Damer was a leading light for women of her generation and with the current interest in Georgian England, her life and work will interest many visitors to Strawberry Hill.”

New Book | The Life of Anne Damer: Portrait of a Regency Artist

Posted in books by Editor on October 26, 2014

Published last year by Rowman & Littelfield:

Jonathan Gross, The Life of Anne Damer: Portrait of a Regency Artist (Washington, DC: Lexington Books, 2013), 410 pages, ISBN: 978-0739167656, £52 / $85.

0739167650The first biography of Anne Damer since 1908, The Life of Anne Damer: Portrait of a Regency Artist, by Jonathan Gross, draws on Damer’s notebooks and previously unpublished letters to explore the life and legacy of England’s first significant female sculptor. Best known for her portraits of dogs and other animals, Damer also created busts of England’s most important political heroes, sometimes within days or hours of their historical accomplishments.

This in-depth biography traces her life during the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Peace of Amiens and the Hundred Days. Damer was convinced that art could have significant political influence, sending her bust of Nelson to the King of Tanjore to encourage trade with India. Her art stands at the transition between neoclassicism and romanticism and provides a wealth of insight into nineteenth-century British sculpture. In the last twenty years, there has been a strong revival of interest in Damer’s life, particularly in gay and lesbian studies due to her famous relationship with author Mary Berry. This text serves as a deeper investigation of this fascinating and important figure of British art history.

The emotional ménage a trois of Anne Damer, Mary Berry, and Horace Walpole forms the heart of this new biography. Gross contends that all three individuals, had they led more conventional lives, would never have given the world the literary and artistic gifts they bestowed in the form of Strawberry Hill, Belmour, and Fashionable Friends. The struggles they faced will encourage modern readers to appreciate anew the fluidity of sexual identity and passionate friendship, as well as the restraints put in place by society to control them. Anne Damer’s life has much to teach a new generation concerned with the complex relationship between love, art, and politics. The Life of Anne Damer will interest historians of Georgian England, and readers in the fine arts, literature, and history.

Jonathan Gross is professor of English at DePaul University.
%d bloggers like this: