Lillian May Bevis Rowles:
Unframed (ref: 2749)
Oil on canvas, 30 5/16 x 22 7/16 in. (77 x 57 cm.)
Tags: Lillian May Bevis Rowles life drawing
Lilian Rowles studied at West Bromwich Municipal School of Art and exhibited at the Royal Academy and Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. She was a professional commercial designer and illustrator and married the artist Stanley Charles Rowles. Born Newport, Monmouthshire (nee Hall),she Lived Congleton, Cheshire.
Women had historically been discouraged from the nude as a genre, and even after it became acceptable for women to attend Art School drawing from a live model, rather than plastercasts, was considered inappropriate. A measure of the degree to which men felt threatened by the idea of women painting a nude is demonstrated by the hostile reaction provoked by Laura Knights iconic Self Portrait (1913), now in the collection of The National Portrait Gallery, which the Times critic of the day summed up as 'something dangerously near to vulgarity':
Somehow, women painting women hardly ever infuses into her work the higher charm of the ‘eternal feminine’. This painting is obviously but an exercise, and as such it might quite appropriately have stayed in the artist’s studio. It repels, not by any special inconvenance – for it is harmless enough with an element of sensuous attraction – but by dullness and something dangerously near to vulgarity.
Claude Phillips, The Daily Telegraph, 17 April 1914
Even favourable press reviews of the time used very condescending language: Mrs Knights has …proved that she has masculine genius and feminine courage. Herbert Thomas, Mrs Knights Triumph, The Cornish Telegraph, 26 March 1914, p3.
In Freeman's studies there is an honesty of purpose that might typically be absent from a nude painted by a man. As Alfred Lys Baldry observed in Contemporary Figures Painters, The Studio 1925, this ‘plain matter of fact’ approach to the nudes– ‘the frank fidelity of the woman artist’ - , shared none of the characteristics of the ‘idealized rendering of the female nude as seen by a male painter ‘
The source of the above quotes is an article by Pamela Gerrish Nunn, Self Portrait by Laura Knight, The British Art Journal, volume VIII No. 2 p 53