Sophie Gengembre Anderson

(1823 - 10 March 1903)


The genre painter Sophie Anderson, known for her typically sentimental pictures of Victorian children, was born in France, daughter of a Parisian architect and English mother. She was largely self taught, though studying portrait painting briefly under Baron Charles von Steuben in Paris. In 1848, with the Revolution, she went with her family to America, residing in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. There she became a successful portrait painter, and married another painter, the Englishman Walter Anderson. She returned with her husband to England in 1854, living first in the north (Dalston), then moving south. However, ill health caused them to spend more and more time in the warmer climate of Italy, and they took up full time residence in Capri by 1871. Anderson continued to send her work back to England for exhibition, and returned herself in 1894, living in Falmouth.

Above all, Sophie Anderson is known for pictures of over-sweet little girls, sometimes boys, and with titles such as 'Peek a boo' and 'Little Red Riding Hood'. But her technique was good, and her depiction of nature almost photographic, with the flowers and leaves in her paintings most naturalistic. She also took particular care over her depiction of fabrics and drapery, and often the light effects in her pictures are of great merit. As well as children, Anderson also produced some pictures of grown-ups, including subjects from literature, and some with a somewhat Orientalist bent.

Her best known work is "No Walk Today", showing a little girl looking out at the rain sadly. "The Children's Storybook" is in the collection of the Birmingham gallery, a feeble "Neapolitan Child" is at Leicester, and a more serious picture is "Elaine" (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), the subject being from Tennyson's poem Lancelot and Elaine.


Sophie Gengembre Anderson was the daughter of a Paris architect, Charles A.C. Gengembre. She studied portrait oil painting with Baron von Steuben in Paris. With the outbreak of the 1848 revolution Sophie Anderson traveled with her family to America, where the family settled in Cincinnati, Ohio 1849-1854. There she began her painting career doing portraits in oil, figure work, illustrations and exhibiting at the Western Art Union.

She married British artist Walter Anderson, with whom she had worked with in Cincinnati and in 1854 the two of them moved to England, where Sophie Anderson gained fame as a painter of Pre-Raphaelite works of art, exhibiting her artwork in the Royal Academy. In 1860 the couple visited Pennsylvania and exhibited at the National Academy. Around 1871 she moved to Capri, Italy because of ill-health. Eventually she returned to England and lived in Falmouth. While working for Louis Prang & Co. she produced the popular 'Prattling Primrose' and 'Dotty Dimple' oil paintings. Sophie Anderson's technique was excellent and she was quite adept at depicting fabrics and drapery with outstanding light effects.

Born: 1823, Paris, France
Died: March 10, 1903, Falmouth, United Kingdom

View painter's art: Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1823-1903) [new window view]

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