As occasional model for no less than Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones, Marie Spartali Stillman (1844-1927) remains a well-known face of the Pre-Raphealite era. Born into a well-to-do Anglo-Greek family in London, she was greatly admired as one of ‘The Three Graces’, alongside Aglaia Coronio and Maria Zambaco, and photographed several times by Julia Margaret Cameron. Her circle of close friends included, among others, William Michael Rossetti, Lucy Madox-Brown Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown, George Frederick Watts, Jane Morris, the Ionides family, and James Abbott MacNeill Whistler.What few people now realise is that behind the enigmatic face lay talent and determination. A gifted artist in her own right, Marie persuaded her father to allow her to study under Ford Madox Brown. She was a prolific painter throughout her long career – a career that she was determined to have in a time when women of her status were actively discouraged from doing so, and that she maintained throughout her marriage. She exhibited regularly at the Dudley from 1870, the Grosvenor from 1877 and at the New Gallery from 1887 until 1908, in addition to numerous exhibitions in the United States between 1875 and 1908.Her husband, William James Stillman (1828-1901), a New Englander by birth, was an early and important figure in the development of American taste for a domestic school of painting. In 1855 he founded and edited The Crayon, the first successful American fine art journal, with John Ruskin’s encouragement and with William Michael Rossetti as his London correspondent.Stillman painted with members of the Hudson River school and was a pioneering and creative photographer. In Europe, following his marriage to Marie Spartali in 1871, he was a war correspondent and Rome correspondent for The Times from 1876 until his retirement in 1898.This is the first biography of Marie Spartali Stillman. Based on full access to her family’s archives, it examines fully her work as well as placing it in to social and personal context. This richly illustrated and comprehensive book catalogues more than 170 works by Marie Spartali Stillman, many previously unknown. As much of her work can only be found in private collections, many of the works illustrated here have not been seen by the public since 1908. ... Read more
Customer Reviews (1)
Well detailed story of the marriage of Marie Spartali Stillman and William J. Stillman
This is a well detailed telling of the improbablemarriage between Marie Spartali and William J. Stillman. From my reading of this book, William Stillman was self-absorbed, overly rigid, and willing to take moral stands when they would damage him most.He would turn his back on friends, carry out vendettas against some who had once been friends. As a diplomat, he would abandon his duty as an agent of American government and do what he thought best. In one case, he actually took sides in a conflict, when--as a diplomat--he should have been clearing his actions with the State Department (he did not get along very well with William Seward, the Secretary of State during one of his diplomatic assignments). Stillman dabbled with painting (but never made the commitment needed), photography, diplomacy, and journalism.
The fact that he married a wonderfully talented woman, who was considered quite desirable in her day, is almost a mystery as one reads this book. What did she see in him? Marie's father was opposed to the marriage; Marie's friends were doubtful about the wisdom of her marrying Stillman. Indeed, Stillman sometimes feuded with Marie's friends. Marie Spartali was the daughter of a well off family. She was very talented and did things that women of her time weren't expected to do. She was a fine artist (I am not an expert, but I found her paintings to be pretty impressive). She was a model for some of the finer painters of her era (some of whom were from the pre-Raphaelite ranks).
This work is a good study of how Marie's and William's lives came together, how their life together unfolded, and the many challenges that they faced (some of which were self-induced by William's actions). The portrayal of Marie and William, his children from an earlier marriage and the progeny from their own marriage is richly told. I do not have enough knowledge of the two main characters of this study or the context in which they worked to judge how accurate or insightful this volume is. But for those who are curious about this odd couple and the context within which their lives unfolded, this looks to me to be a good work.
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