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MARGARET RAYNER (1837-1920)

Baron's Chapel, Haddenham Hall        

The photograph, above right, shows Margaret in her Carte de Visite of 1859.

The painting (The Baron's Chapel at Haddon Hall) appears to be a copy by Margaret of one of her father Samuel's paintings. This might be because Samuel was painting alongside her at the time, but probably was a training exercise to sharpen her skills. The latter seems more likely when you compare it with the garden scene below. The detail in the chapel image is more softly executed than in the exterior. There is one difference, however - Margaret's painting shows more of the right side of the chapel than does Samuel's - but she could be working from his studies rather than his final work. Our thanks to R.N. Myers & Son, who supplied this image for reproduction here.

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 do without.

Church Interior... was auctioned by Bonhams on 30 March 2006 for 180.
  church interior with wooden pews


Knole 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)

Haddon Hall gardens

Detail of Haddon gardens 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 taper has not been corrected here - hence the more marked slant of the wall - but the picture has been digitally sharpened a little to compensate for having to photograph through glass.

Margaret painted another very similar scene (now held in Canada)   of the Haddon gardens, but with the figures in Cavalier costumes. This was apparently a form of enjoyment of the period not dissimilar to today's representations of the Civil War by the Sealed Knot. This image, supplied by Aeneas Lane and his wife is reproduced below. There are visible differences in the colouring of the hall and the detailing of the wall, but all else is clearly in the same style.

Cavaliers in Haddon Hall gardens

The Knight's Tryst

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.
Roslin Chapel

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 The Dacre Monument, Herstmonceuxaustere 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.

Room in Naworth Castle bulge at rear of painting
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.

MRtomb painting with priests
The next two paintings were bought by Christopher Cavey at antiques fairs a number of years ago (not all of the second one is shown here). At first sight they would appear to be further views of the Dacre Monument we looked at above,
but we couldn't be certain of that. We knew that Margaret's Dacre painting was popular and she would play with things like decorative details when making copies just to keep herself interested, so that wasn't conclusive.

Then the two paintings were taken out of their frames and one revealed a label saying "Kingston Church Norfolk" on two lines (see image below). Well, that was clear enough - it wasn't Herstmonceaux. It explained the larger anomolies like the different window at left and the flagstone floor and - when we looked closer - the bits missing either side of the tomb itself and the stone figures on the tomb reversed end for end. No problem, then... except that
    MRtomb painting with dark figure
Ownership label on one of the paintings 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 there.

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!


Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon Norfolk label 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.
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford upon Avon

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.

Girl feeding doves

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. Samuel: White Horse Yard 
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.

This Castle in a Lakeland Landscape Setting has neither location of the subject nor date of painting - which is a shame, because we'd really like to what castle it is! Perhaps the broken bridge over the river may offer a clue.

Indeed the calmness of the scene suggests that the river might actually be a moat. If you know it, please feel free to email us at the address at bottom. Thankyou!
Unknown Lakeland castle
When her father died in 1879, Margaret left Sussex and went to live with her widowed mother Ann at 5 Brunswick Terrace, Kings Road, New Windsor, Berkshire, and was noted there by the 1881 census.

Greyfriars, Edinburgh Greyfriars caption

Some of Margaret's paintings were engraved for publication, as we've just seen with Holy Trinity Church York. Above we have The Tomb of the Covenanters Greyfriars, Edinburgh dated 1887 (though the 7 is missing here). It is as published in the then-new art journal The Studio at some point after its inception in 1893, along with the caption that accompanied it. The painting itself was probably a product of one of the joint expeditions to Scotland by Margaret, Louise and Richard in 1877 and other years (see Louise in Scotland for more on this). The second half of the caption throws an interesting personal light on the family:

"Miss Margaret Rayner, the artist to whom we have been long beholden for the products of her pencil, was born and bred in an atmosphere of art. Her parents and sisters were all artists. Both her father and her late sister Miss Nancy, who was elected a member of the Old Society of Painters in Watercolours when she was only twenty-one, being painters of repute. From their father the children acquired knowledge of the principles of art, for not only had he a generous wish to impart his knowledge to others, but also a rare gift in his manner of communicating that knowledge."

As an aside, it is interesting how women artists were either suffered or ignored in the upper levels of the 19th century British art world - but as we see here and on Louise's pages, Margaret, Louise and Nancy were well-regarded in the journals of the day.

Below we have a slightly later painting by Margaret, circa 1880, showing the crypt in York Minster, as also later engraved for The Studio. Both images and captions came courtesy of Andy King.

York Minster Crypt c.1880 Below left is the caption that appeared in The Studio with the engraving.
York Minster Caption   Part of a view of Conway Church interior
Above right: part of a painting of Conway Church, believed to have been painted by Margaret, though the details on the painting are indecipherable. The view is very similar to that used by Nancy for her own rendition of the same church.

York Church interior Bosham Church interior
Tami Huston sent us a photo (above left) of her painting of an unknown chapel and asked for help in identifying it. The photo was dark with a colour cast, so we're conscious that our revival of it may not have the colour quite right, but Andy King did know what it shows. It's the "Ancient Well", situated in the Eastern Crypt of York Minster, and one of Margaret's watercolour studies showed that the pump (the brown column in the painting) and well still survived when she was there. Margaret may have made her sketches for the painting during a summer 1878 visit when she, Louise and Richard stayed in a house overlooking the Minster and town walls. St Peter's Well is reputed to be the place at which the founder, King Edwin, was baptised on Easter Eve in the year 627AD. The well was then built into the first small wooden church (dedicated to St Peter) and in every rebuilding up to the present Minster - but it seems that the well has now been covered by a font or may no longer exist at all.

The painting above right came from Pete Lothrop of Virginia USA. It shows the font at Bosham (pronounced Bozum) Church, close to Chichester in West Sussex. Margaret is thought to have painted it in the 1870s or 80s. Many of her paintings went directly to dealers who sold them on overseas, particularly to the USA, where there was a great demand for reminders of 'Old England' (and indeed Pete inherited this painting from his mother, so it may have been passing down the family). Bosham village has a truly historic Church: it is the first entry for Sussex in Domesday Book, is shown in the Bayeux Tapestry, and is possibly one of the oldest religious sites in England. Outside, the church has high entrance steps as a protection against floods as it stands on low ground close to Bosham harbour (mainly sailing boats these days). We don't currently have a title for the painting.

Tony Kitto, working as a volunteer at Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museum, Burnley, sent us this pen and ink drawing by Margaret: The Old Mill. We don't know where it is, but Shere or perhaps Harbledon might be good starting points. The Old Mill

In Margaret's time Harbledown was still a separate village on the edge of Canterbury in Kent, and the appealing character of its church - and in particular its belfry - made it a gift for her canvases. Like her sisters Louise and Nancy, Margaret could take a simple subject and make it shine. She produced (at least) two different treatments of this scene, and we've put these two together to show the contrast.
Harbledown Church Canterbury
At left in Steps to the Belfrey, Harbledown Church, Canterbury, England, a soft, warm summer day of gentle sunshine comes across; and on the right Belfry, Harbledon Church Canterbury a cooler, crisper sort of day, but not wintery. The summer one might appeal to you more, but we've had to reduce the image size of the cooler one, and at full size it's a gem. Harbledown Church Canterbury

Rochester castleLower right: Rochester Castle by courtesy of Kathleen Arnott of British Columbia. Rochester Castle has the tallest keep in England and was besieged many times; the castle still stands today and serves as a tourist attraction. The view is of the ruined interior of the keep (the large white circle is a flash reflection).
We don't have a date for this painting, but Rochester is close to Hastings/St Leonards, where Margaret lived in the earlier part of her career. Kathleen Arnott has two other pictures by Margaret - both being variations on scenes shown above.


In addition to her paintings (which enjoyed considerable success among North American collectors as noted above) she employed herself as an art teacher, and set up a Sketching Club in the 1880s "to give instruction to amateurs living in this country or travelling abroad, who send two of their sketches twice a month and receive them back within a fortnight with instructions how to proceed. Terms are one guinea entrance fee and two guineas a year subscription".

Margaret Rayner's signature

Margaret Rayner's signature in the Herstmonceux image.


Ann died in 1890, and at some point soon after, Margaret went on to live with Louise in Chester, where they both taught art. She was in Chester for the 1901 census, when she gave her age as 58 (actually 64). They continued to lodge with the Shearings, but Chris Evans, who is researching the Shearing family, has discovered that Mary Ann Shearing died in 1908 (seemingly after her husband, and with no children) and her will provided for Margaret Rayner to continue to live in the house, with use of her sitting room and bedroom for 3 months after Mary Ann's death. Interestingly, the same provision was made for Louise - but only on the codicil. Given that Louise had lived there far longer, it suggests that Mary Ann had a closer friendship with Margaret and/or that Margaret may have cared for her in her declining years.

What happened immediately afterwards is uncertain (the new owners may have extended the period), but in 1910, she and Louise moved to Tunbridge Wells, living there for 10 years until Margaret died on 12th August 1920. As with most of her sisters, she had never married.

Margaret did include still life paintings among her repertoire, and Margaret Geiger kindly sent a photo of the example she owns. The photo wasn't quite sharp, and correcting it may have affected the detail a little, but the subject can be seen well enough. Below left: the only image we have of Margaret's Kenilworth Catalogue image Kenilworth Castle.

It was auctioned a while ago but we have no idea of the price it went for.
still life - no title

RECENT SALES
These days, web searches will give you a more up-to-date idea of what is selling, and for how much, though you will probably have to sign up to an art auction site to stay in touch. They don't necessarily charge you for advising you of upcoming sales, but they may withhold the results unless you pay a sub.

PLACES TO LOOK
Work in Public Collections: Ulster Museum, Belfast; Museum & Art Gallery, Derby; and, as just noted, auction sites on the web.

Harry Drummond, October 2014.

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 paintings by the Rayner 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. 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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