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Ann Mary Newton

Ann Mary Newton, by Ann Mary Newton, circa 1862 - NPG 977 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Ann Mary Newton

by Ann Mary Newton
oil on canvas, circa 1862
24 in. x 20 1/2 in. (610 mm x 521 mm)
Bequeathed by the sitter's husband, Sir Charles Thomas Newton, 1895
Primary Collection
NPG 977

On display in Room 24 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

  • Ann Mary Newton (née Severn) (1832-1866), Portrait painter; daughter of Joseph Severn. Sitter in 1 portrait, Artist associated with 4 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Ann Mary Newton (née Severn) (1832-1866), Portrait painter; daughter of Joseph Severn. Artist associated with 4 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

Here Newton shows herself staring confidently out at the viewer, leaning on a brown leather-bound folio of drawings. She exhibited the portrait the year after her marriage, aged twenty-nine. She died of measles not long after, a tragic event that was noted by Queen Victoria in her Journal in January 1866: 'Greatly shocked at the death of Mrs Newton, (Miss Severn) a pretty, clever young artist, who painted several of the family & did also beautiful copies of the Old Masters'.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Ribeiro, Aileen, The Gallery of Fashion, 2000, p. 183
  • Ribeiro, Aileen; Blackman, Cally, A Portrait of Fashion: Six Centuries of Dress at the National Portrait Gallery, 2015, p. 184
  • Rideal, Liz, Mirror Mirror: Self-portraits by Women Artists, 2001 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12 September 2001 to 20 January 2002), p. 41 Read entry

    Ann Mary Newton was born in Rome where her father, the painter Joseph Severn (1793-1879), taught her to draw, encouraging her to copy engravings by Albrecht Dürer, Michelangelo and Raphael. In England she studied with George Richmond (1809-96) who lent her some of his portraits to copy, and she was so talented at this that he employed her for that purpose.

    Aged twenty-three Ann Mary went to Paris to study with Ary Scheffer (1795-1858), and whilst there she painted a watercolour of the Countess of Elgin. The success of this work led to further commissions and eventually a portrait practice in London. At the age of twenty-six, she had displaced her father as the main breadwinner. She painted various portraits and produced drawings for Queen Victoria and members of the royal family, and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1852, 1855 and 1856. In 1861 she married Sir Charles Newton (1816-94), who, in a peculiar type of 'bargain', offered her father the post he was relinquishing as British Consul in Rome - Charles wished to resume working as an archaeologist and Keeper of Classical Antiquities at the British Museum. Ann Mary devoted the rest of her life to drawing the antiquities in that collection for her husband's books and lectures, and accompanying him on his excavations in Greece and Asia Minor. She died of measles on 2 January 1866.

    This rather severe, accomplished and beautiful work shows the artist in a difficult contrapposto pose, her hands clasped over the top of her portfolio and her eyes fixed on us. Her parted hair is adorned with a simple red band, the colour of which is picked up by the bows on the folio and hinted at on her lips and the gem at the centre of her Victorian bracelet. Two rows of big jet beads surround her neck, their size and colour echoed in her eyes. The feigned oval in the background echoes the shape of her curved brow. Her dress, with its delicate gold embroidery, is rendered by a glaze of blue over red, producing a beautiful colour. The focus of our attention is directed to the light sources in the painting: her face, hands and the small piece of paper protruding from her folio, the symbol of her work. The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1863, and The Times critic commented that it was indicative of the artist's ambition that she showed herself as an artist, not just a pretty face. Ann Mary's obituary in the same newspaper on 23 January, three years later, claimed ‘After her marriage Mrs Newton became even a more devoted and conscientious labourer in her art than before. Following her husband's studies with the double interest of a devoted wife and an enthusiastic artist.' (Quoted in D. Cherry, Painting Women: Victorian women artists, 1993, p.40.)

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 458

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1862back to top

Current affairs

The Lancashire cotton famine, a depression in the north-west textile industry brought about by the American civil war, reaches its climax. With large numbers of mills closing after Confederate blockades halted cotton supplies, many Lancashire families were in receipt of relief.

Art and science

Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard carry out the first pasteurisation tests, the process of heating liquids at 55 degree Celsius or higher for short periods of time, destroying viruses and harmful organisms such as bacteria and yeast. .
Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables is published, covering the Napoleonic wars. It traces the ex-convict Jean Valjean's character against wider questions of social and political justice, duty and love.

International

Otto Eduard Leopold Bismarck becomes Minister-President of Prussia, appointed by Wilhelm I after the liberal Diet refused to authorise funding for a proposed reorganisation of the army. Bismarck, intent on maintaining royal supremacy, engineers the Unification of Germany during his time in office.
John Hanning Speke claims to have found the source of the Nile, proving that the Victoria Nile issued from the north end of lake Victoria, over Ripon Falls.

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