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This painting is based on a poem by Lord Tennyson. It tells the tale of Elaine, an innocent country girl who falls in love with Sir Lancelot. He abandons her in favour of Queen Guinevere and she dies from unrequited love. Anderson’s picture depicts a servant rowing Elaine’s body to King Arthur’s palace at Camelot. Anderson was born in Paris and studied there under the Russian artist Baron Charles de Steuben. Her art education was cut short when her family moved to America in 1848. From then on she was self-taught. In 1871 Liverpool held its first Autumn Exhibition. 'Elaine' was purchased for the town and became the first work by a female artist to enter the Walker Art Gallery collection. This remarkable acquisition indicates the forward-thinking attitude of the first purchase committee.

Details

  • Title: Elaine
  • Creator: Sophie Anderson
  • Date Created: 1870
  • tag / style: Tennyson; Elaine; Sir Lancelot; Queen Guinevere; King Arthur’s; Camelot boat; rowing; death; Sophie Anderson; unrequited love; poem; Gengembre; The Idylls of the King; Arthurian
  • subject: Camelot
  • Physical Dimensions: w155 x h1584 cm (Without frame)
  • Artist biographical information: Mrs Sophie Anderson (nee, Gengembre) was born in Paris in 1823. She studied for a brief period in Paris under the guidance of Baron Charles de Steuben. Her family left France for the United States in 1848 owing to the French Revolution, first settling in Cincinnati, followed by Manchester, Pennsylvania. She married the American painter Walter Anderson and in 1854 they came to England. While in England she exhibited at the Royal Academy (1855-1894), the Liverpool Autumn Exhibitions and in Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester.
  • Additional artwork information: Anderson, who mainly painted portraits, genre studies and the occasional history painting, was inspired by 'The Idylls of the King' (1859) written by Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892). The passage of Lancelot and Elaine’ was used as a source. Tennyson’s work popularised the Arthurian romances in Victorian England. He transformed their original rude and barbarous medieval literary setting to fit with contemporary taste and morality, therefore creating perfect subjects for drawing room paintings.
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: Purchased from the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition in 1871

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