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Rayner Biography:    Intro  //  Ann  Frances  Louise  Margaret  Nancy  Richard  Rose  Samuel  //  Known Paintings   Sources
Regional pages for Louise Rayner:    Scotland    Northern England    Wales and the west Midlands    South and South West
Eastern England    London and its Region    South Eastern England    Louise Abroad     Town pages:   Chester   Flint   Dudley

LOUISE J. RAYNER (1832 - 1924)

York Minster
  Louise photo

Louise in her carte de visite of 1859.

Above left, a luminous and characterful picture by Louise Rayner, though some of the figures look dwarfish when you compare it with the deep kerb. It is wrongly titled "Oxford" - it actually depicts York and looks up Lower Petergate, with the two towers of the west front of the Minster looming in the smoke. We have rebalanced a very orange image but it may still be somewhat adrift from its original colours. (Most pictures in this biography reappear on the regional pages listed in our links at the bottom of each page.)

Note: the only contemporary biography of the female Rayners that we know of was created by Ellen Creathorn Clayton, based on questionaires sent to female artists in the early 1870s - and thus not covering their whole lives. The brown text you see on this and other pages is the related text for each female Rayner artist. (We have more on Ellen Clayton here. Everything else has come from family or external records, plus photos sent to us by painting owners - thank you all!

Harbledown 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 [early] 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.

Attributed only: Elgin Cathedral Above right: Louise is known for townscapes, but she did landscapes, too. This is Harbledown, a village 1 mile west of Canterbury (date unknown).

Right: This faded-looking painting 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. It was expected to reach £150-£200 in a 2012 auction.

Although it has some likeness to her work and may have been done as a study (working out angle, balance or detail), there is doubt in the family that it is actually hers.

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.

Below left: this Cathedral Interior dated 1868 was auctioned by Whyte's of Dublin in February 2003 for 3200 euros (roughly £2100 then). We're informed that this is Canterbury and a possibly fanciful scene of monks at the entrance
Cathedral interior  to Thomas Beckett's shrine, which once existed there. 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, click here). But she soon concentrated mostly on watercolours. 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, populated by believable figures. 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).

Bridge Street Chester, c. 1875
Louise was also taking commissions for work in Chester. She painted the old, smaller God's Providence House in Watergate Street just before its demolition for rebuilding in 1862, and Bridge Street Chester (as above, but this is a later painting) in 1863. These were the precursors of many more, and she is known to have been living in Chester in 1865, prior to taking up more permanent lodgings. Her painting 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 and work, we have separate pages on it (use the Chester button at the bottom of this page) 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, as noted above.

Cambridge 1880s 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.

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.

Louise clearly had real standing and respect as an artist in Chester, woman or not, and this appeared in the Cheshire Observer of 18 Mar 1882 as a report on the Chester Government School Of Art Conversazione and Art Exhibition:

"...Perhaps, however, some of the most interesting works in the collection were those by Miss Louise Rayner, the daughter of the late Mr. Samuel Rayner, who was one of the original members of the Old Water-Color Society. Though Miss Rayner is a native of Derby, she has earned a great local reputation for her clever studies of Chester streets. Miss Rayner studied under her father's tuition, with the result that she has for many years been recognised in art circles as the leading illustrator of ancient timber and other architecture. This lady was introduced to Chester really by Mr. Thomas Hughes, by whom she was retained, fourteen years ago, to come and depict Chester subjects, a task which was achieved with surpassing success. Several of her choicest bits of street painting were on exhibition, such as God's Providence House, Bridge-street, and Northgate-street, and we noticed also a magnificent interior of St. George's Chapel, Windsor, lent by the artist herself..."

"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 and seek out new subjects in the way she once had.

Below: Lincoln Cathedral from the South showing its dramatic presence. Date not known.

Lincoln from the south
Lincoln Gate  Louise did the pencil sketch above of Lincoln from the south 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 left we have another image of Lincoln, this one a completed painting of Lincoln Gate. The bluishness in the foreground suggests some fading. 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.

Chester Foregate StreetGood 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 – interiors.

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."

Ash Grove, Chester
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!

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, Edinburgh fetched 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.

Right: [White horse at] Temple Bar London is one of at least half a dozen oil and watercolour paintings of the old London city gate by Louise. Our Louise in London page should take you to them by the end of this month.

Temple Bar

Harry Drummond, January 19th 2015.

DudleyMall pages about Louise:
Louise at Dudley - Front page introduction, Dudley, link to Richard Rayner's work at Dudley.
Louise Rayner - the main biography, listing some of her early paintings
Louise at Chester - where Louise made her home and did some of her best work.
Louise at Flint - her drawings for Henry Taylor's book.

Louise on expedition:

North to South progression, West before East
Louise in Scotland - Edinburgh
Louise in Southern Scotland - Roslin Chapel (we have no other Scottish paintings at present)
Louise in Northern England - York... Selby... Beverley... Durham
Louise in Wales and the west Midlands - Conway... Ludlow... Gloucester
Louise in the South and South West - Oxford... Chippenham... Salisbury
Louise in Eastern England - Lincoln... Derby... Cambridge
Louise in London and its region - Temple Bar, Drury Lane, Holborn, Greenwich, Eton and Windsor
Louise in the South East - Tunbridge Wells, Knole, Herstmonceux, Canterbury, Hastings... more
Louise Abroad - Rheims, Nuremberg, Bruges... and possibly Venice
In preparation: - The Rayners at Windsor

Please 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. It is inevitable that there will be errors, though we naturally correct these when we learn of them.

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. And we'd like to thank the many people who have already contributed - you've helped to make these pages as good as they are. Thank you!

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