A letter dated 1920 was found during renovations at the Royal Academy of Arts (RA). The contents refer to Victorian artist Annie Swynnerton’s continued efforts to become a member of the historically ‘men only’ club.
“My dear fellows, is that hysterical harpie at it again?” it begins.
Mr. Manners, chair of the RA committee, told us, “Annie Swynnerton finally has her own exhibition, decades after her death, therefore this letter is of great historical import to us”.
The letter goes on to say, “What stuff and nonsense this all is. Why are you even entertaining the idea of allowing a woman into our club? Lord knows the woman can’t paint to save her life. Have you seen her naked ladies? Like most women, she does not possess the mental capacity to paint with the kind of depth that us men do.”
The anonymous author finished with, “ her ladies are too thin, they are too realistic and do not conform to the idealised objects of beauty that we wish to portray in our subjects.”
Mr. Manners could hardly contain his amusement at this new find.
“Can you imagine if anyone tried to pull a stunt like this nowadays. The Academy would be burned to the ground. The idea of a ‘men only’ club in the 21st century is simply laughable.”
The letter is to be framed and hung alongside Ms. Swynnerton’s vast collection of paintings at Manchester Art Gallery, her hometown. The town we believe she had to leave, as the Manchester School of Art would not permit life drawing for women. In the Year Of The Woman, we at Pf Magazine, applaud the celebration of so many women who never lived to see a world so changed, that nothing like this could ever happen again.
Lisa Ives for Pf Magazine