MARGARET RAYNER (1837-1920)
The photograph, above right, shows Margaret in her Carte de
Visite of 1859.
Margaret was the last artistic Rayner
daughter (though one more sister, Grace Dorothy, would follow her
into the world), and was born on 30th July 1837 in Derby. This is
despite what she told the 1881 and other Census collectors as, in
common with many women, she and her sisters never gave a remotely
accurate age when asked.
|This painting, Church
Interior With Wooden Pews Before A Stained Glass Window
has no date, but shows a nice skill for detail, and it also
shows Margaret's love of light and shadow. And while Margaret
could paint people (as we'll see below), she was quite happy to
Church Interior... was auctioned by Bonhams on 30 March 2006 for £180.
This looks like another of Margaret's exercise copies, this time based on her father's painting of Interior of Knole Castle, Kent, which can be seen on Samuel's page. It even repeats the entrance of the man through the far doorway.
But in Margaret's copy, we see a sense of humour intruding, too. Instead of the formal portrait that should be hanging on the wall at far right, we instead have a slightly cartoonish sketch.
We are again grateful to R.N. Myers & Son for the image.
Margaret's particular speciality was church interiors, and Margaret is thus associated with "gloomy" subjects. This could suggest that she was quite retiring, and to some extent she probably was. However, it could also be misleading as she happily travelled to various parts of the country with her sister Louise and brother Richard in search of new subjects. She was known in the family for her theatrical nature when younger, and she painted a number of bright, quite spirited (and rather theatrical) landscape views, still life studies, and some classical scenes.
The lovely example of Margaret's mature work below was supplied by courtesy of Leigh Cort of St. Augustine, Florida, USA. Leigh says that no title is evident on the painting, but Andrew King has identified the scene as the upper garden terrace at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, and in recent times the house has been open for public visits. (More Haddon Hall paintings by the Rayners can be found here)
This painting shows how clearly at home Margaret could be in the sunshine. Please note that our reproduction above was from a photograph taken slightly to one side of the picture to avoid glass reflections. This introduced a taper which we have corrected digitally, but the painting has lost some sky and a small fraction from other edges. However, the slenderness of the figures is there in the original - an interesting contrast to Louise's usually short and robust figures.
Right: a detail from Leigh Cort's painting by Margaret Rayner.
The Knight's Tryst (left) went through the hands of Leicester Galleries a while ago, but we don't have a sale price for it. It's dated c.1860. The frame was obviously made in segments and one joint has opened, but after 140-odd years it's otherwise in very nice condition.
The picture was referred to Andy King who notes that the drawing shows a rather different side of her character from other work. This image has elements of her theatrical and romantically-minded tendencies already noted, but along with a Pre-Raphaelite/Pousin feel. He thinks it also reflects what her father was doing for Walter Scott illustrations. Samuel had collected some Italian and French drawings for his patrons while he was abroad, and this image has some classical elements with suggestions of Diana at the pool - particularly the hounds.
On Louise's pages we describe her trips to Roslin Chapel, south of Edinburgh. But on at least some occasions, Margaret went with her older sister, and this is one of the paintings that she produced. We have no date for it, but 1870s seems likely.
Ellen Clayton's 1873 entry for Margaret is brief: Margaret lives very retiredly, absorbed in her favourite subjects – chiefly interiors of old churches and chapels, views of such sacred edifices in Sussex being her greatest delight. She loves to depict old carved oak screens, damp pavements covered with effigies and inscriptions half worn out with the tread of many a step, tattered banners, dusty niches, ancient tombs, storeyed windows. Her architectural views evidence great power, and "have a rough mode of treatment that seems to carry with it convictions of their fidelity." A critic of high repute remarks "We are bound to say that Miss Rayner paints these subjects with truth and force far beyond those of David Roberts, hence she is more pathetic." Her pictures are rich in colour and tone.
The word 'pathetic' has changed in usage since the remark was made. David Roberts was a very successful artist who was so concerned for architectural accuracy that he used mathematical instruments to ensure it - but apparently at the cost of some liveliness in his pictures - so the comment on Margaret's work was complimentary. Margaret's art was said to closely imitate the manner of her father's - though she used more colour than was typical of Samuel's rather austere style. She was a member of the Society of Female Artists, and her first work exhibited at Suffolk Street Gallery in London in 1867 was submitted from St Leonards according to Graves (see sources page).
This implies she had detached herself from other members of the family, perhaps when some or all of them returned to London circa 1864. However, her submission to Ellen Clayton that she lived "very retiredly" must have overlooked the regular summer trips she often shared with Louise, Richard or Samuel as they went in search of new subjects.
Above: the Dacre Monument, Herstmonceux, from an image kindly supplied by Anne Pratt of Connecticut. Herstmonceux is 7 miles north of Eastbourne, East Sussex, and its parish church holds this 16th century canopied tomb. It was a successful subject for Margaret as she painted several versions including a much cooler version of the scene with sombre blues in place of the reds. Her sister Frances painted the same scene, too (probably following a joint excursion to sketch it); that version can be seen on Frances's page.
|Terry Ray really caught our attention
when he sent these images of Margaret Rayner's unidentified painting to us.
Identification was straightforward: it looked like - and proved to be - a
modified version of the same room in Naworth Castle that her father Samuel had
used for some of his paintings of monks.
But Margaret was interested in the room itself - especially the window. She has
painted the window, possibly while still in place, then as the second photo indicates,
cut it out and reattached it behind the rest of the painting (touching up the paint,
of course). This produced a recess that slopes away from the viewer to create a partial 3D
effect. The effect is apparently quite subtle, yet you remain aware of it once you know it is there.|
Terry bought the small painting (8.5 X 6.25 inches, 212 x 158mm) from an Estate auction warehouse, where it had been wrapped in plastic with a label that said "Margaret Rayner watercolour 3-Dimensional, Unframed $450". It's quite feasible that the old owner was related to the original buyer, and that that buyer got it direct from Margaret. This is just suggestion, but as we've already noted, Margaret did have American clients during her lifetime and her paintings still circulate there.
Andy King comments that Samuel and all his children were interested in using the window and door openings in dark rooms to dramatic effect. "And after everyone else's efforts I actually don't have much to add except to agree with the idea that Margaret has used her father's drawings of Naworth in an imaginative and theatrical way to produce quite an interesting 3D effect."
But there is one further note to add: two of us have visited Naworth but could not find the room - and indeed it may never have existed.
Kingston doesn't get a mention in our
gazetteers of Norfolk. An alternative possibility was
Kingston upon Thames, but we couldn't make that location
match either - though we know she painted at least one scene
Our current view - open to correction in the face of persuasive evidence - is that Norfolk might be the original client's name. Of course, there could be a church in that county that matches the painting, and if you know of one please let us know which it is! In the meantime we'll go with a different explanation: that the client wanted an image like the Dacre monument, but with differences specified by him or created by Margaret, and the result was something quite recognisable and yet very individual. However, this is speculation. If you know better, our email address is at the bottom of this page!
The two labels on Christopher's paintings show that one painting was despatched after
framing to Margaret - living at her mother's house
after the death of her father - on July 17th 1883,
suggesting a date soon after painting. The lack of a
town name for the framer implies London - then the
centre of the known universe. The other image shows the
Kingston lettering discussed above.
The picture at left of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford on Avon was kindly supplied by Doug Watts and his sister. The glass remained in place during photography, so there is some reflection, but it's still a good image. One of Margaret's pencil sketches still survives of this view in the Rayner family, and it is probably through the Chancel door of the monument to William Shakespeare. The picture is likely to have been painted between 1880 and 1910 - about the time when Margaret was living at Ash Grove, Chester, with Louise. The two sisters may well have visited Stratford together, given their other shared artistic forays. And it's also possible the painting was bought new, either by Doug Watts' Aunt, or more likely her parents.
Below, we have another cutting from the Rayner family's collection,
along with the caption that describes it. In this case, as you will
see, it's of Holy Trinity Church, York.
Margaret made at least three paintings of this church, in 1880, 1886, and 1889, as our Paintings page records, but we've yet to see any of them.
As well as the Frances family comparison made a little earlier on this page, another can be made with the painting below, Margaret's Girl feeding doves in courtyard. Strictly speaking we cannot say it is Margaret's as the artist is not positively identified (though it is a Rayner). The options are Nancy, who died in 1855 and was ill for a long time before that, and one wonders if she could have faced a trip to Edinburgh on the relatively primitive railways of that era; Margaret, possibly on her visit circa 1877 with Richard and Louise; and Samuel, as a reworking of the theme he used below - and though his paintings were more noticeably line drawings than those by his children, it would not be difficult to see this as one of his.
|Right: Samuel's painting of White Horse Yard, Edinburgh, which is obviously the same location, painted in the 1870s. A larger view is on Samuel's page. What is interesting is the left side. It's probably a different period, though we can't be certain and don't know which came first. But one image or the other is almost certainly a fabrication. The missing tree is fair enough (artistic licence or reality) but the changed stairs, the flat-lintelled door at the top of them, the roof furniture... it's possible that there was another building nearby and some of its features got appropriated.|
It's also possible that the changes were done to improve the
composition, but it's worth remembering that Margaret had a sense of
humour that sometimes slipped into her paintings, and this could be
an example. The painting was auctioned in 2006 by Bonhams, and
bought by Tom Kerr in Virginia.|
The subject range quoted in Ellen Clayton's book may have been typical of Margaret's work, but she did step outside her usual subjects on occasion - one known example being a still life painting of objects in a room, quite modern in feel and unlike anything else by any member of the family. This may have been done as an experiment, or simply because it caught her imagination.
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