Princess Louise: The career of a royal artist, part 2
In part two of our series looking at the artistic career of Louise, Duchess of Argyll, Ann Galliard takes a look at some of Princess louise's public sculpture projects and asks what she might have achieved without the restrictions placed on a royal princess.
In part I of this series we took a look at how the art career of Princess Louise emerged. In this next instalment, Ann Galliard studies some of Princess Louise's works of art, including her statue of Queen Victoria in the grounds of Kensington Palace.
A committee was set up to raise funds for a statue of Queen Victoria in Kensington to mark the Jubilee in 1887. The Queen was associated with the parish as a child, and it was agreed that the work should depict Victoria as a young woman with her coronation regalia. Louise was chosen to be the sculptor.
Following the common practice at the time, the Princess prepared the clay model and the marble was then worked by a professional carver. It is thought that she may have been assisted by her friend Alfred Gilbert, who was responsible for the Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus. A mammoth effort was required for the large statue and it was eventually unveiled on 20 June 1893, to huge acclaim from both the public and the art critics.
Louise made a tribute to her late brothers Princes Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Saxe Coburg and Leopold, Duke of Albany in the form of a simple and elegant marble angel standing on a plinth in St. Mary Abbots, Kensington. This sculpture is believed to have been made around 1900.
Drawings and paintings
Princess Louise was not only an exceptional sculptor, but her drawings and paintings are of the same professional standard. She was continually involved in some or other artistic project, and while influenced by other prominent artists she developed her own style. Her husband was also a skilled painter and shared her love of the arts, and they collaborated on the design of a trophy for military pipe bands.
Louise designed her own wedding dress (shown above) as well as those of her bridesmaids, some jewellery, accessories for the uniform of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, some items of silver and wrought iron, and she painted some frescoes on the walls of various residences.
The Canadian Parliament building was enhanced by stencilled decorations designed by the Princess, and delicate painted doors at Rideau Hall, where the Lornes lived in Canada and still survive. Her personal dress was governed by her artistic tastes, and was another example of her unconventional personality. Her choice of style and colour was often unusual, but always perfect for the occasion. She tried her hand at architecture and interior design too, unable to resist an artistic challenge. What might she have achieved without the restrictions imposed upon a royal princess?
Louise produced some public sculpture which has lasted and is still enjoyed. There is the statue of Queen Victoria at McGill University campus in Montreal, and in Britain there are examples at Whippingham, in London and Manchester but her work was limited by her position, her royal duties and her other charitable commitments. We are indeed fortunate to have such a beautiful example of her work at Kilmun.
QUICK LINK: Victorian glass photo slides rescued from a skip
About the author
With a background in NHS Personnel Management, Ann Galliard enjoys reading and writing about local history and World War I. She has had several articles and two books published (including Sandbank: War and Peace, a Scottish Village), researched & recorded the history of the Argyll Mausoleum (the burial place of the Dukes of Argyll) and is currently writing a history of Ardkinglas. Recently a Committee Member of the WW1 Commemoration Steering Group for Argyll & Bute, and Organiser for the WW1 events in Cowal, she is a member of the Management Committee of the Friends of the Argyll Papers and volunteers in the Archive at Inveraray.
(Images: Princess Louise in her wedding dress: By Unknown - Royal Collection Object 2905647, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37887241; statue copyright RevStan)