Monday, July 8, 2013

Painting of the Day: Louisa, Dowager Viscountess Wolseley, 1884

Louisa, Dowager Viscountess Wolseley
Julian Russell Story, 1884
The Victoria and Albert Museum

This half-length portrait of  Louisa, Dowager Viscountess Wolseley dates to 1884 and is the work of Julian Russell Story (1857-1919).  Story, best remembered today as a society portraitist, was especially celebrated in America.

Born to American parents in England's Walton on Thames, Julian's father, William Wetmore Story, was a highly regarded sculptor and author.  As a young man in London, Julian became close friends with painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler, to whose studio he was a frequent visitor. 

Later, Story traveled to Florence where he perfected his technique and, then, spent a number of years in France where he met and married the American soprano Emma Eames.  This marriage, a favorite topic for America's society papers was famously rocking, ending in a high profile divorce in 1907.  Julian's second marriage was much less tumultous, resulting in two daughters and a son.  Sadly, it was short-lived as cancer claimed Julian Story in 1919.

During his time in London, Story was a favorite of the Court and, especially of the then-Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII).  This royal confidence helped Story's career flourish and found him favor with the aristocracy.

The handsome woman depicted in this 1884 portrait by Story is Louisa, Dowager Viscountess Wolseley (1843-1920), daughter of Alexander Erskine Esq. and wife of Garnet Joseph Wolseley. At the time this portrait was painted, Garnet Joseph Wolseley’s career was in its pinnacle after he served in the Second Anglo-Burmese War, the Crimean War and India and had commanded at Canada, Asante and Natal, rising to become commander-in-chief of the British forces, a post he held until 1900. 

The Visountess and Viscount were a well-respected couple known for their dignity and loyalty to Crown and Country.  Story's association with the Prince of Wales, brought him to the attention of the Viscountess.  She is said to have cherished the painting, marveling at the light brushstrokes and delicate details until her death in April of 1920 at Hampton Court Palace.

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