LOUISE J. RAYNER (1832 - 1924)
Louisa Ingram Rayner was born on 21st June 1832 in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire and was christened in London on 8th February 1835 (see Frances Rayner). Her middle name came from her grandmother's (Ann's) family. In her younger years she continued to be known as Louisa but later changed to Louise J. Rayner. The 'J' rarely appears on paintings.
[She] came to London when quite a child [in 1842, when she was ten], living in the metropolis during the major part of her life. During a long sojourn at Herne Bay, when about fifteen years of age, she took up drawing with a sort of independent feeling that she, as well as the rest of the family, should have to make her own way in the world – not, strangely enough, from any marked predilection for the pursuit, though it very soon occupied her whole time and interest. Love for it naturally soon followed.
Above right: Louise is known for townscapes, but she did landscapes, too. This is Harbledown, village 1 mile west of Canterbury (date unknown).
The faded-looking painting here is attributed to Louise - i.e. someone thought it might have been done by her, but the evidence for that judgement has not survived. It is titled and dated at right, Elgin Cathedral 17th Aug 1859, but not signed.
Although it has some likeness to her work and may have been done as a study, there is doubt in the family that it is actually hers at all.
Her father was her principal master, and though she never went through any regular course of instruction – few daughters of artists ever receive timed "lessons" – she is indebted to him for most that she has learned of painting. She has been so happy as to receive a great deal of valuable instruction from Mr Niemann, the landscape painter, from the late David Roberts, R.A., the late Frank Stone, and some other artists of note. It was at the Academy [Royal Academy, London] that Miss Louise Rayner first exhibited. At that time she painted in oil – architectural interiors alone.
Left: this Cathedral Interior dated 1868 was auctioned by Whyte's of Dublin in February 2003 for 3200 euros (roughly £2100). We're informed that this is Canterbury and a possibly fanciful scene of monks at the entrance to Thomas Beckett's shrine - which there would have been once.Her first exhibited work was an oil painting entitled The Interior of Haddon Chapel, Derbyshire shown at the Royal Academy in 1852 (for more on Haddon Hall paintings by the Rayners, click here). But it wasn't long before she transferred to working in watercolour. As with Samuel, her watercolours were given bodycolour, and it was said that "her style closely resembles that of her father, but is less gloomy". Prior to (about) 1860 her paintings did not include many figures, but once she began to include them in substantial numbers, she discovered that this added liveliness helped her pictures to sell - and was well assisted by her eye for the detail of human behaviour.
The first place at which she exhibited water-colour drawings was the Society of Female Artists, about three years after the formation of the society. Since that time she has by degrees given up oil in favour of water colours, and has exhibited regularly at the Academy, Dudley Gallery [London], and other places, pictures done in this medium. Through the kindness of the Dean of Windsor, the Queen [H.M. Queen Victoria] saw Miss Rayner’s drawing of the interior of St. George’s Chapel, when her Majesty expressed herself much pleased with the beauty and accuracy of the work.
During her most active period, Louise painted a large number of church interiors, and exteriors, but she did other interior work, too - for example, her Interior of a Bedroom which later sold (on 1st May 1908) for £4.14s.6d.
What she would really become known for, however, was her rendition of ancient streets and picturesquely decaying buildings in many of the major cities and towns of Britain and Northern France, and she exhibited the results at the Royal Academy between 1852 and 1886. Among her subjects were Lincoln and Salisbury cathedrals; the Household Cavalry at Windsor; John Knox's house, Edinburgh; Cambridge, Derby, Ludlow, Winchester, Chippenham, and Dudley.
Louise remained with her family for some years after reaching adulthood, which probably means that she spent the first half of the 1860s with them in Brighton. But in 1865 she was touring for subjects, visiting Dudley that summer, and quite possibly Ludlow in the same year. (For more on this, see our separate page Louise in Wales and Western England).
Louise was also taking commissions for work in Chester, and is known to have been living there in 1865, prior to
taking up more permanent lodgings. The picture above shows Chester Bridge Street between 1873 and 1879. It was first
bought by Thomas Henry Dixon of Gresford Hall, and stayed in family hands until appearing at Christies on 4th November
1994 where it sold for £13,800. As Chester forms a major part of her life, we have separate pages on it (use the
Chester button at the bottom of this page or click Louise Rayner in Chester now) but
the general biography continues here.
It was during the early Chester years that Ellen Clayton contacted Louise and other women painters about their work.
Although so distinguished an artist, Miss Louise Rayner disclaims original or inherent talent. Like Charles Dickens, she declares that such success as she has met with is due, not to the small share of cleverness she may have, but to a naturally persevering, or jog-trot, disposition, and dislike to leave anything once begun unfinished. This would be mightily encouraging to young aspirants, only, unfortunately, hard fact demonstrates that many are indomitably persevering, while few are successful creators.
Each of Louise Rayner’s works is a labour of love, carefully drawn and admirably finished, sparkling like a beautiful gem. In her deep-toned interiors of grand old churches, she has worked out a speciality of her own. But she is equally happy in soft Devonian landscapes, quaint picturesque old towns, city views, antique gateways, ancient High Streets; she seems to linger fondly over curious bits of pavement, moss-grown walls, storeyed windows, historic oak furniture, sunlighted groups of citizens, eighteenth-century or Tudor shop fronts and signboards, patiently transcribing and illuminating them with clear or brilliant atmospheric effects. She can be minute without loss of breadth, and glowing without any touch of garishness.
Above right: Gates of Magdelene College, Cambridge circa 1880, by Louise Rayner (also found as a print entitled "A view of Cambridge"). Louise was in Cambridge at least twice, as another painting shows fashions appropriate to around 1900. This painting was listed for a Bonham's auction on Feb 28th 2007."Few artists," observes one critic, "have arrived at a nicer discrimination for the consecrated relics of ancient architecture scattered about the country than Miss Rayner. She has acquired a touch which describes the true character of a picturesque gable or crumbling arch to a miracle, and she is no less happy in rendering the varied texture of stone or timber, of mildew, water-stain, or moss, and the several features of decay and dilapidation which time and ill-usage have occasioned. That she does not search for the picturesque in vain her contributions yearly give proof."
With the passing of years, however, Louise was passing her peak. Although she still painted well of the places she visited, in later years she tended to duplicate her subjects, undermining to some extent the life and freshness of her earlier, more spontaneous work. But she'd obviously recognised where her paying market was and settled down to feeding it - eminently sensible in the days before pensions! We also need to observe that she was 76 when she retired, so her later work may have been constrained by less ability (e.g. eyesight and steadiness of hand) and/or enthusiasm to travel in the way she once had.
Right: Lincoln Cathedral from the South - a quite dramatic view. Date not known.
Louise did this pencil sketch of Lincoln from the south (above) and dated it August 25th 1864 (which may imply another visit that year), and at least one extant painting was probably derived from it. At right we have another image of Lincoln, this one a completed painting of Lincoln Gate. We have no date for it.
Louise exhibited for the last time at the Royal Academy in 1886, and the last time anywhere in London in 1893. By then her sister Margaret had joined her, following the death of their mother Anne in 1890, and the two of them set up a teaching studio. At the 1901 census, she declared her age as 63, which was either forgetfulness or more likely vanity as 69 was closer to the truth. In 1910 they moved to Tunbridge Wells, and in 1918 Louise sold her last drawing.
Following Margaret's death in 1920, Louise moved to Southwater Road, St Leonards-on-Sea, near Hastings, and died there on 8th October 1924 after more than 90 years of the most tumultuous and society-changing period in British history. The Chinese have a curse: "May you live in interesting times". Louise Rayner did precisely that - and recorded a lot of them, too.
Good as her watercolours are, Louise Rayner is not seen as one of the great artists of the nineteenth century, and some art directories omit the entire family. Even so, Peter Watson was relatively kind about her inclusion in a Christies Glasgow auction of female artists' work in his otherwise scathing review of the whole affair in the Observer on 27th November 1994:
"Louise Rayner won't be to everyone's taste - very dense, detailed paintings-cum-drawings of Victorian streets teeming with life: cats fighting, dogs smelling, spivs spivving, washing hanging, flirts leering, babies vomiting, parents spanking. And not a give-away either (priced at several thousand) but they do have a lookatable quality which possibly justifies the price."
Looking at this detail from her view of Foregate Street, Chester, we might sympathise with the description, but look also at those buildings hanging out on their pillars over the pavement, showing three or four different generations' approaches to the same concept. Louise Rayner may not have belonged with the artistic greats, but through her architectural approach she preserved parts of our history that the camera could not then do justice to.Many of Louise's paintings are undated, but Ellen Clayton's efforts have provided a break-point that may sometimes be helpful. In her 1876 book she listed the following paintings, which must perforce have been in existence by that date:
Among Miss Louise Rayner’s more remarkable works may be named – "The Brown Gallery, Knole" – an
interior, oil: reproduced in the Art Journal. "Roslin Chapel," and "Beauchamp Chapel," Warwick, both oil –
In water colours –
"The Cartoon Gallery, Knole"; "James the First’s bedroom, Knole" (reproduced in Art Journal, among the illustrations to the "Stately Homes of England"); "St George’s Chapel, Windsor" – exterior; "Watergate Street, Chester;" "Bishop Lloyd’s House, Chester;" "Preparing for Petermas fair, Peterborough;" "Views in Oxford;" "Wych Street, London;" "Holywell Street, London;" "Fair Day, South Petherton, Somersetshire;"
"Bridge Street, Chester" – an excellent view of one of the quaintest, most picturesque of English
cities during the preparations for the visit of the Prince of Wales; "Views in Chester;" "St. Stephen’s
Gateway, Salisbury;" "Smith Street, Warwick;" "High Street, Oxford" – this view once taxed the genius of
Turner, who took up his station near the spot where the plain frontage of University faces Queen’s College;
"Northgate Street and Northgate, Chester" – a curious place, where no two houses are alike ("David Roberts might have
envied her patience in making out the various distinguishing features of the scene," was said at the time of the
exhibition); "In the Lofts, Knole;" "In Lady Betty Germaine’s Bedchamber, Knole."
Louise's later home in Chester - Ash Grove sketched by Richard Rayner (on a visit) in a letter back to his son Bert in 1892 "from the road, showing Lou's house and the Welsh Mountain Moel Famman".
We don't know of a complete public list of Louise's paintings, but Dudley Mall has been building a list of its own, drawn from our own research and pictures that people tell us about. You will find it here: Paintings. We're always pleased to learn of images not in the list!|
Below right, Temple Bar London is a study in oil for the old London city gate. Louise painted and sold several watercolour versions, two of which can be seen on the London and South East page.
Prices are highly variable according to the interest that individual pictures raise. Samples have already been given, but we can add:
John Knox's House Edinburgh: signed, pencil, watercolour and bodycolour, unframed 318 x 472mm. Sold at Christies circa 1994 for £6,820.
The Poultry Cross Salisbury: sold at Bonhams in London in 2003, for £21,510.
Figures by the Porch at Lincoln Cathedral is illustrated above. Its anticipated selling price was £2,000- £2,500 and it went for £3500.
The Grass Market, Edinburghfetched a record price of £28,100 at Gleneagles in 2001
The Butter Market at Ludlow: sold by Louis Taylor Fine Art in 2009 for £37,000 - making it the record price for a Louise Rayner painting up to that date.
PLACES TO LOOK
Work in Public Collections: Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead; Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth; Bristol Art Gallery; Grosvenor Museum, Chester; Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry; Museum & Art Gallery, Derby; National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; Museum & Art Gallery, Dudley; Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Museum & Information Centre, Ludlow; Museum & Art Gallery, Reading; Adelaide Art Gallery, Australia.
Others are in the USA, but we don't have details of their whereabouts.
|Dudley Mall pages about Louise:|
|Louise Rayner||- the main biography and a list of her earlier paintings|
|Louise at Chester||- where Louise made her home and did some of her best work.|
|Louise at Dudley||- front page introduction|
|Louise at Flint||- the images for Henry Taylor's book.|
|Louise in Northern England||- York... Selby... and hopefully more|
|Louise in Eastern England||- Lincoln... Derby... Cambridge|
|Louise in London and the South East||- London... Tunbridge Wells... Hastings|
|Louise in Wales and the west Midlands||- Conway... Ludlow... Gloucester|
|Louise in the South and South West||- Oxford... Chippenham... Salisbury|
|Louise in Scotland||- Edinburgh|
|Louise in Southern Scotland||- Roslin (we have no other Scottish paintings at present)|
|Louise Abroad||- Rheims... Venice... and possibly Bruges|
|In preparation:||- The Rayners at Windsor|
Please take note: we claim no art expertise, and in no way do we offer provenance for any paintings. What you see here was compiled out of interest in Louise Rayner's paintings and those by her family, but is based on sometimes very fragmentary evidence. As such, it is inevitable that there will be errors, though we naturally hope to reduce these over time.
We would gratefully receive any information or corrections that will help us to fill the gaps and resolve unproved links - for example confirmation of dates of birth, death, etc., and details of other addresses the family lived at (and roughly when). Images of any of the family's paintings would also be very welcome. Thank you!