Watercolour and bodycolour; monogrammed and dated '90
19.25 x 14.5 inches
Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colour, 1891, no 634
Agnes Ashbee was one of three sisters of CR Ashbee, designer and a pivotal figure of the Arts and Crafts movement. She was 21 when this was painted; she remained unmarried, like her sister Elsa, because - as suggested by CR Ashbee’s wife, Janet - ‘she was too well educated’. She was a ‘good watercolourist’ and in this portrait she holds a sheet of music; all of the Ashbees played various instruments and sang. The critic of the Manchester Guardian wrote about this picture when it was exhibited at the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-colour in 1891: ‘A singularly subtle colour scheme is that shown in the “Miss Ashbee”. Here varying shades of rich brown in the lady’s costume and hat are, with a daring crowned by complete success, illumined with a note of slate colour and of positive blue in the bunch of corn-flowers worn in the bodice’. The connection between artist and sitter may have been the Art Workers Guild, of which Linton and CR Ashbee were both Brothers.