Thursday, March 15, 2018

Leaving a Legacy: The Story of Louise Jopling -

Louise Jopling by Sir John Everett Millais
"What I know, I chiefly learned alone. Hard work and the genius that comes from infinite pains, the eye to see nature, the heart to feel nature, and the courage to follow nature—these are the best qualifications for the artist who would succeed." Louise Jopling

Born in 1843, Louise Jane Jopling is known to many as a notable portrait and genre painter, author and teacher. Brought up in the Victorian era, Louise was one of few women artists who achieved a high level of professional success in her lifetime. Reaching this level of achievement was exceptional for women of her generation. 

At this time, women had very few rights and their lives were bound to their father and/or husbands. A women’s place in society was still perceived as passive and their behavior governed by emotion. John Ruskin, Britain's leading art critic at the time wrote: "I have always said that no women could paint."

Self Portrait
Throughout her life, Louise worked to increase gender equality in the arts and in the lives of women. Believing that women should receive the same education as men, Louise was part of the growing number of independent, career-oriented women who sought to push the limits set by a male-dominated society and exercise control over their own lives. 

Marrying at the age of 17, Louise wed Frank Romer, her first of three husbands. The couple moved to Paris, where he worked for Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild. It was the Baroness de Rothschild who encouraged Louise to study art. 

Portrait of a Lady, Louise Jopling
At age 23, Louise began her studies with Charles Joshua Chaplin, who taught private art classes specifically for women at his studio. Chaplin studied and instructed at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Mary Cassatt, Marie Gonzales, Louise Abbema and Henriette Browne were among the group of women artists that attended the Chaplin studio. Louise's work was soon recognized. At age 26, she exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time.

While in Paris, Louise's first husband abandoned their family. This prompted Louise’s move back to England. After the death of Romer in 1872, she was free to marry again. In 1874, Louise married Joseph Middleton Jopling, a self-taught watercolor artist who worked with Vanity Fair and regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy. During her second marriage, Louise’s painting career thrived and she was the primary earner for the family. Joseph Jopling died in 1884. In 1887, she married lawyer, George W. Rowe.

Ultimately, Louise established the Jopling School of Painting for women. The school which provided women with the same studies as other institutions. She strived to create a learning environment that would welcome women who sought to master the art of painting. For Louise, the school was not only a way to earn a living but provided a unique and enriching experience.

Long-term supporter of the National Union of Women's Suffrage, Louise actively supported feminist causes. She also served as vice-president of the Healthy and Artistic Dress Union, which advocated for less restrictive clothing.

A Modern Cinderella, Louise Jopling
These life-long passions influenced her paintings. Her work connected with the aesthetic movement of the Victorian era, feminism, and Japonisme. Depicting women in more modern dress, her paintings often contradicted the societal norms associated with women being passive and definitions of femininity. However, they were not so overt as to draw disapproval or be excluded from exhibits. 

Women emerged in a way like never before by breaking into history painting. In the past, women figures were often presented in unfavorable roles. Now, they were taking their image into their own hands and started portraying women as modern icons. Painters were cautious that they did not present subjects as feminists, but infused the paintings with the rights of women and to change the prevailing portrayal of femininity.

Serenity, Louise Jopling

Another important form of support for women's causes came about through the painting and giving of portraits by women who shared a common mindset. These paintings became part of collections in women's colleges, societies, and clubs. They were made by women to be viewed by women. This became known as a form of matronage - the commissioning and collecting of art by women to disrupt the representation and signification of woman. 

In 1889, Louise signed The Declaration in Favour of Women’s Suffrage. Later on, she set aside her career to support the Artists Suffrage League, creating posters and banners for the organization. 

Louise Jopling was not one to accept the social contrivances of human invention that were designed to keep her from working in a field of her choosing. She was a shining example for the women of her time and instrumental in the creation of a path for the many women artists who would follow. Louise Jopling remained active in the suffragist groups with diverse responsibilities until she died in 1933.

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Artfully Yours,

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Annette Goings Fine Art Website

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*History of the Amersham Area
*Women in the Victorian Art World
**Louise Jopling, Reluctant Aesthete, Convinced Feminist
* Royal Academy 

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