Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1823 – 1903) was born to a French architect and an English lady in Paris. Her family would then move to a remote French village. Her interest in painting was ignited when a traveling portrait painter visited her village when she was 17. Sophie was mainly self-taught, but did receive a few lessons in Paris. With revolution sweeping France in 1848, Sophie’s family fled for America, first settling in Ohio and then Pennsylvania. She started her career in America by getting commissions for portraits and working in lithography. She met her artist husband Walter Anderson while working on a project painting portraits of American bishops. She and her husband moved to England in 1854, where she would be featured at the Royal Academy and multiple other exhibitions, before returning to Pennsylvania in 1859. They would move back to England in 1871, where she would continue her successful career as an artist until her death, which occurred in the same year as her husband.
Sophie is best known for her photograph-like paintings of women and children in rural settings. Her use of light, her attention to detail, and her pre-Raphaelite sensibilities made her a very popular painter. She was one of the few examples of a female artist seeing a great deal of success in her lifetime. Wikipedia notes, “Her work, Elaine, was the first public collection purchase of a woman artist. Her painting No Walk Today was purchased for more than £1 million.”
Gone Beyond by Kevin MacLeod