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Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon

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Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon

by 'Holmes of New York'
ambrotype, 1857 or 1858
3 1/4 in. x 2 1/2 in. (83 mm x 64 mm) oval
Given by Elizabeth Malleson, 1912
Primary Collection
NPG P137

Sitterback to top

  • Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827-1891), Artist and women's rights activist; benefactor of Girton College, Cambridge. Sitter in 3 portraits.

Artistback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 62 Read entry

    As leader of England’s feminist organisation, the Langham Place Group, the artist and activist Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827-91) was central to the Rights for Women movement in the late nineteenth century. She also co-founded the Kensington Society, a suffragist discussion group that would eventually expand into the National Society for Women’s Suffrage. Bodichon trained as a painter at Bedford Ladies’ College, London, and in Paris, with the prominent French artists Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Charles-Francois Daubigny of the Barbizon school, and her artistic circle included the Pre-Raphaelites Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Elizabeth Siddal. Bodichon exhibited widely between 1850 and 1881, and landscapes inspired by her travel in North Africa proved particularly successful. Having been brought up in a politically radical family, Bodichon’s early activism was closely linked to her professional ambition; she campaigned to raise the status of women artists through the foundation of the Society for Female Artists in 1857. Later, she was active in promoting women’s wider educational opportunities and co-founded Girton College, Cambridge, with Emily Davies in 1869. Bodichon’s most influential political tract was ‘Reasons for the Enfranchisment of Women’ (1866), in which she declared: ‘under a representative government, any class which is not represented is likely to be neglected’. Having achieved her own ambition, she fought

    lifelong for other women to be able to so, too.

  • Birkett, Dea; Morris, Jan (foreword), Off the Beaten Track: Three Centuries of Women Travellers, 2004 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 7 July to 31 October 2004), p. 110
  • Eger, Elizabeth; Peltz, Lucy, Brilliant Women: 18th Century Bluestockings, 2008 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 13 March to 15 June 2008), p. 139
  • MacCarthy, Fiona, Anarchy & Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy 1860-1960, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 16 October 2014 - 11 January 2015), p. 46
  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 13
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 62

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Subject/Themeback to top

Events of 1857back to top

Current affairs

Palmerston passes the Matrimonial Causes Act in the face of parliamentary opposition. The act establishes divorce courts, although women, unlike men, are not allowed to sue for divorce on the grounds of adultery.
The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition is held, a follow-up to the Great Exhibition of 1851, although highlighting Britain's private art collections rather than industry and technology. More than 1.3 million people visit the event.

Art and science

Elizabeth Gaskell publishes The Life of Charlotte Brontë, a year after the author's death. The controversial biography consolidates the myth of the Brontë sisters as isolated geniuses living in remote Yorkshire.
Illustrator George Scharf becomes the first Secretary of the National Portrait Gallery, overseeing the collection's growth and its several moves around London before a permanent home is established in 1896, the year after Scharf's death.

International

The Indian Revolt was a significant rebellion against the rule of the East Indian Company and a culmination of decades of discontent about British rule. After a year of horrific violence on both sides, the revolt was suppressed. It led to a more involved role by the British government in India, taking over responsibility from the East India Company.

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