Salon Without Boundaries: The Inaugural Event

Finally it is here - the video for the Salon inaugural event! It took place on 14 November 2018, at the 1901 Arts Club in London. Called “Mapping The Boundaries”, it looked at women’s creative responses to the natural world. The audience got to experience very different works, from the songs of Fanny Hensel and Pauline von Decker, to contemporary composer and poet Jenni Pinnock and Elizabeth Lewis-Williams, via the art and science of Maria Merian. 

Please have a watch and leave a comment below. Your thoughts and responses are just as much part of the Salon as those of the people who were there on the night.

Part 1:

Fanny Hensel: Prelude in E Minor. Piano: Briony Cox-WIlliams

Fanny Hensel: 6 Lieder, Op. 9. Mezzosoprano: Pierrette Thomet; Piano: Briony Cox-WIlliams

Part 2:

Welcome to the Salon: Briony Cox-Williams

Met Obs: A series of poems based on records in the British Antarctic Survey, by Elizabeth Lewis-Williams. Introduced and read by the author

Met Obs: A song-cycle on the above poems. This is a work in the making. Composer Jenni Pinnock talks about the compositional process, and Pierrette Thomet and Briony Cox-Williams perform two sketches from the cycle.

Part 3:

Pauline von Decker: 3 Lieder, Op. 16. Mezzo: Pierrette Thomet; Piano: Briony Cox-Williams

As far as we can ascertain, this is the first-ever recording of any songs by Decker.

Introduction to Mapping The Boundaries: The Salon’s Inaugural Event at 1901 Arts Club, 14.11.18

Welcome to the first Live event of Salon Without Boundaries. This has been a project long in its incubation, and thus we are especially delighted that the ship should set sail at long last on no less auspicious a date than the 213th birthday for the Salon patron, Fanny Hensel.


Hensel will not be an unfamiliar figure to many of you, but it is worth reminding ourselves of her wide sphere of creative output, from pianist to chorister, conductor, composer, writer, and of course salonière (although she herself never would have termed herself one). And in the spirit of the salon, we must mention some of the other roles she filled so graciously and skillfully – daughter, sister, mother, wife, social activist, organizer, educator, enabler and lynchpin. All of these roles, every single one, inflected the creative voice we hear from her, and it is the unique combination she offers that has led not only to my long-standing awe and admiration of this - to me - towering figure, but also to our decision to nominate her as Salon Patron - although it must be admitted that this is without her express permission. 


Hensel is known in part for the musical gatherings she organized fortnightly at her home at 3 Leipziger Strasse - gatherings in which the musicians of the day played to an audience of approximately 200 invitees, which included other musicians, artists, scientists, philosophers, writers, and thinkers, both known and unknown. Invitations were sought after, the successful ones a source of much envy throughout Berlin. Hensel’s musicales followed a slightly different pattern from other Berlin salons, in that the core event concentrated solely on musical performance; the cross-fertilization of other idioms andother idea-centres comes from the relationship of the musicale to its participants’ involvement in a wider community that grew out of their coming together here - the “here and now of the salon conversation being continued through the distance of space and time”, as Petra Wilhelmy-Dollinger puts it in her wonderful book on Berlin salons. This included such events as Humboldt’s lecture to both men and women at the Berlin Sing-Akademie, art exhibitions, salons run by other women, all the way through to the casual get-togethers and passing discussions, both in person and written, that created the woven cloth in which more formalised events were nestled. It is clear from the writings of the time just how exciting these connections were, and how important they were for the growth of both society and culture at that time. What would our artistic and scientific heritage look like if, for example, the archeologist Karl Lepsius and mathematician Karl Jacobi had not sat in a room together, listening to Hensel playing Beethoven, while beside them, the artist Wilhelm Hensel sketched the feminist writer Fanny Lewald?


Of course, the other foundational pillar of the salon is that this was the sphere of women. It was women who organised them, ran them, invited people and then kept the conversation alive, before, during and after the event itself. And for many, it was the further education that was denied them in mainstream education – salons have often been referred to as ‘women’s universities’. The desperate desire of women for knowledge and skills cannot be underestimated; as early as the 15th and 16th centuries, women writers such as Christine de Pizan, Marie de Gournay and Jane Anger were pouring their terrible anger and despair onto the page, demanding the same educational rights as men. In the nineteenth-century, the deep rift between opportunities for men and for women of course continued. The salon was a way of navigating this, and taking some control.

The other most important facet of the salon was its ability to allow room for the recognition of women’s stories and expression. The half of humanity that has culturally inhabited the role of the silent symbol, gains its own voice in the Salon, and speaks for itself, rather than through an observer. If I may be personal for a moment: I inhabit many of the same roles as Hensel, both creatively and in wider life. I am a pianist, a teacher, a writer, a daughter, sister, wife. I am mother to a prematurely-born son. And while I am deeply, deeply grateful for the wonderful cultural treasure from the men who make up most of the current Western canon, I am also passionate in two beliefs. One is that music speaks of the everyday, and that this does not make it any less sublime and universal in its utterance. The other is that there is a whole wealth of human experiences – including my experience – that is not spoken about in the creations of the current mainstream canon, especially from the inside out. Hensel’s song Warum sind den die Rosen so blass? says something about child loss no man ever can; her understanding of the cycle of time in her piano work Das Jahris, to me, clearly born of her female experience.


It is a sense of illumination and of continuous communication that we want to capture in this salon, through the highlighting of women’s creative practice, not just in the arts, but across all fields. Creatively and artistically, we want the Salon to help change gendered cultural norms and enable us as artists to envisage ourselves not on the margins, but at the centre of a vibrant, culturally relevant and socially empowering landscape shaped by the creativity of our own gender. The discussion starts tonight: do join in with the explorations and dialogue, both here and upstairs, where there are some cards you might like to use to stimulate conversation. Please also come and be part of theongoing community at we look forward to what comes in the future.

Christmas Day 2017

The Salon Without Boundaries wishes everyone a peaceful Christmas and holiday season. May the end of a fraught year be one of hope.

For the end of our calendar, I have chosen Marianne Stokes' "Angels entertaining the Holy Child". I love the realism here. The exhausted Mary is thankfully catching a few moments of desperately needed sleep, while the still wide-awake baby is enjoying the self-conscious performance of the two angels. They are clearly aware of the importance of what they do, rather in the manner of the narrator in a school play. They have gone from being the youngest angels to having a smaller person to look after. Fortunately, their audience is happy with their efforts. 

And in the hope that eventually the baby will sleep, here is Ruth Watson's "Lullaby for the Christ Child."


The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Twenty Four

Marguerite Kirmse started her creative life as a harpist, studying at the Royal Academy of Music. But pencil and paper slowly and surely took over as her preferred artistic medium, and by the time she left London for the States, it seemed a foregone conclusion that it would dominate. She spent much of those early years in America sitting in Bronx Zoo sketching, even being allowed into cages for closeups of the animals. Eventually, she began to specialise in cats and dogs, and in etching - she started with a Victrola needle, “before I knew much about diamond points, burnishers, and other etcher's tools". 

Kirmse settled in the States, running a kennel as well as continuing to solidify her reputation as a canine artist. Her media were etchings, painting and sculpture. She produced a book, “Dogs In The Field”, a collection of action “shots” of sporting dogs. There is much action in this etching of “...”. The terrier is in a frenzy as the startled cat hisses at him, although she is wise enough to remain a whisker out of reach of the straining leash.


Louise Talma also started her studies in a different field to where she eventually ended up, studying chemistry at Columbia University and music at The Institute of Musical Art. Music gradually won out; Nadia Boulanger was one of the greatest influences in this decision, encouraging the young composer to devote herself to music. Boulanger would remain a mentor and teacher for years; Talma spoke of returning to Fontainebleau as if to a musical home. 

Talma’s style was on the blade edge between twelve-tone techniques and tonality. Her colour palette was immense. This was particularly effective in her vocal works, where her ability to marry harmonic and verbal languages was extraordinary. She was one of the few women in the mid-twentieth century to have an opera performed in Europe. Talma also wrote an extensive oeuvre of instrumental works, ranging from solo to orchestral. The Alleluia in Form of Toccata is a prime example of Talma’s clarity of language and her use of an instrument’s timbral capabilities. The joyous arc of this piece seems a wonderful summary of Christmas Eve itself.

The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Twenty Three

It is difficult to know the extent of Barbara Longhi’s surviving oeuvre, given that she rarely signed her paintings as her own. The reason if this is lost, although it is difficult to imagine a male artist not attached to a studio who might do the same. Longhi painted a great many versions of the Madonna and Child theme, concentrating on producing devotional pictures that highlighted the human detail of both mother and baby, in Counter-Reformational style. Indeed, twelve of the verified fifteen of her paintings still extant are on this theme. She was also known as a portraitist, although only one of these is still with us - the wonderful painting of the serene Camadolese monk. Serenity seems to be a characteristic of Longhi’s style. This self portrait of herself as St Catherine of Alexandria shows a calm face gazing at the artist, hands at rest. The muted colours contribute to the calm demeanour.


Overlapping Longhi’s life by nearly two decades, the other Barbara, Barbara Strozzi, was also Italian, and also encouraged in her creativity by her father. She started her musical life as a singer, eventually producing a prolific output of mainly secular vocal compositions. As approximately three-quarters of her works are for solo soprano, it is easy imagine Strozzi herself performing them. At least the first of these, a series of madrigals, were settings of poetry by her father; many of the texts of the following works were by anonymous authors. L'Eraclito amoroso is one such anonymous text. It fiercely bewails the death of the singer’s faith in love, the constancy of her tears - “Every sadness assaults me/Every eternal grief.”

The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Twenty-Two

Cushla McGaughey’s paintings offer close-up or larger-than-life portraits of wildlife visitors to our gardens and some unique inhabitants of our forests, wetlands and nature reserves.  She initially focussed on birds as sensitive indicators of environmental wellbeing, exhibiting with the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. Her painting of Whio on the Mokihinui River was used in the Forest & Bird campaign to save the river from damming. Her painting of Wrybills, another vulnerable endemic species, won the People’s Choice and Highly Commended Awards in the Mahara Arts Review 2011. More recently she has also been involved in research and artwork around the importance of biodiversity for pollination of crops and regeneration of our native forests. Her motivation is the need to promote greater awareness and more active conservation of our very special fauna and flora and the habitats on which they – and we - depend for survival.


Another New Zealand artist, whose medium is sound, Jenny McLeod has written works from classical to ‘devotional rock music’. After several years of combining the two genres:

‘she was invited to a contemporary music festival in Louisville, Kentucky […] Here she met the Dutch composer Peter Schat, who introduced her to his "Tone Clock" theory. McLeod became fascinated with this new systematic classification of triads, and immersed herself in a study of its theory and applications. This resulted in her translating into English Schat's book on the subject, and her developing the theory to a point far beyond that envisaged by its original author. Tone Clock Pieces for piano (1988-89) was the natural creative outcome, as she applied the theory as a stimulus for composition.’

The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Twenty-One

Until 1917, Maria Blanchard divided her time between Paris and her native Spain, only really settling in Paris after the war. Her artistic roots, however, were with the Spanish artists with whom she studied, particularly the Cubist painter Juan Gris. Cubism was a large part of her output; Blanchard would use it in her own unique style, allowing figurative elements, along with a riotous use of colour. Many of her still-life works became well-known; she exhibited throughout Belgium and France. “Woman with Guitar” shows the combination f cubism and figurative painting. The insistently rhythmic and melodic music swirls out of the painting and hits the observer full on.


Ida Presti is a name now little-known outside of guitar circles, despite the hard-to-please Segovia’s pronouncement that he had “nothing to teach her.” The guitar was chosen for her as her instrument before she was even born; she spent her childhood living up to expectations of her great talent. A solo career later gave way to a duo with her husband. She was known for phenomenal technique and for an extraordinarily powerful sound. Not only was she a great performer, however, she was also a composer. Her “Danse Rythmique” displays both her vast knowledge of her instrument and a supreme skill at handling musical material, crafting it into joyous praise of movement.

The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Twenty

Françoise Duparc was first taught by her sculptor-father. She served an apprenticeship, then worked in several different cities around Europe, from London to Wroclaw. She was admitted to the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1776 - one of only four women permitted membership. She died two years later, leaving 41 paintings in her studio, of which only four have been verified as hers. Her subjects are ‘real’ people - those who work for a living, rather than the aristocracy. The old lady in this painting is reminiscent of the old lady in Grün’s poem of nearly a century later. There is a world of experience in the face:

I have an old aunt

Who has an old book.

In the old book

Lies an old, fragile leaf.

The hands also are fragile

That first plucked it in spring.

What ails the old lady?

She cries every time she sees it.


Antonia Bembo, who was a contemporary of such composers as Strozzi, Caccini and Jacquet de la Guerre, is even less-known than these names, perhaps in part due to the existence of only five of her manuscripts, extensive though those are. Born and married in Venice, she escaped from her embezzler husband and fled to France. She had had a lifelong admiration of Louis XIV, and her did indeed recognize her talent as a musician, rewarding her with a pension that allowed her to compose in peace. She settled at the Petite Union Chrétienne,, a  charitable community of religious sisters. Her music ranges from the religious to the secular. Today’s offering is the 6th Psalm from ‘Les sept Psaumes’, settings of French psalm paraphrases by Elisabeth-Sophie Cheron. The instrumentation of these range from solo voice to vocal quartet, all accompanied by two melodic instruments and continuo.

The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Nineteen

Na Hye-Seok was a Korean writer, painter and feminist who was well ahead of her time in her views on gender equality. She studied art at Tokyo Arts College, an education that fuelled her desire to be an artist, rather than a submissive wife in a hierarchical marriage. She championed the idea of love between equals in her writings; her paintings suggest a freedom of movement and thought perhaps foreign to many women on the post-WWI era. Her determination to share the same advantages as men had was her downfall. When her extra-marital affair was discovered, she lost everyone - husband, lover, children, and eventually, her reputation. She pleaded passionately for equality, pointing out that men were permitted affairs with no consequences, but to no avail. She spent her last years living in Buddhist monasteries. 

'Incheon' is an introspective townscape in muted, rural colours. In spite of Na's refusal to accept the Korean view of women, her self-professed deep love of Korean culture is clear.


Unsuk Chin is perhaps best known for her opera “Alice in Wonderland”. A Korean composer living in Germany, she has also written a series of concertos for particular performers - she says, “I’m attracted by virtuosity. This enthusiasm and virtuosity of a player trying to go beyond his or her boundaries: I like that. It’s a situation that I experience all the time as a composer: pushing the limits of your possibilities, not knowing whether you can do it — and then somehow succeeding. I ask every bit as much from a soloist.”

This ethos is discernible in this fifth Piano Study, the Toccata, as is the joyous humour so recognisable in Chin’s style; her complexity is balanced so carefully with clarity and precision that it can be easily missed.

The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Eighteen

Judith Leyster vanished from art history for over two centuries, thanks to the attribution of her works either to Franz Hals or to her husband, Jan Molenaer – this was despite her signature on the paintings. The inventory of her paintings after her death listed her as ‘wife of Molenaer’, making it easy to ease both her and her name entirely.

Leyster was, however, known as an artist in her lifetime. She was a member of the Haarlem Guild of St Luke, and took on apprentices. Most of ther work seems to be from the time before her marriage and the birth of her children, although a few pieces survive from afterwards. The painting here, ‘La Joyeuse Compagnie’ has a chequered history. Sold originally as a work of Hals, it was discovered in 1893 to be indeed by Leyster, igniting a fraught court case. That is was not Hals’ work was deemed more important than its evident quality: as Germaine Greer says, ‘at no time did anyone throw his cap in the air and rejoice that another painter, capable of equalling Hals at his best, had been discovered’.


The musicians in Leyster’s painting are clearly secular; today’s composer, Caterina Assandra, comes from the opposite world of the cloistered sacred. She was a musician first, studying counterpoint with Benedetto Re at Pavia Cathedral, and became known as an organist and composer. In 1609 she entered the Benedictine community of St Agata in Lombardy, continuing to compose motets. Her style ranged from traditional to more innovative, such as the work here, ‘Duo Seraphim’, in a version for solo voice. For some reason, the ethereal suspension always brings to mind the Cantatrice in ‘The Nun’s Story’, a 'famed Georgian scholar' who would 'pause near a novice to listen to her breath control, or perhaps to some forbidden excess of feeling that escaped from the young throat.' How could one avoid that forbidden excess in music such as this?

The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Seventeen

Anna Heyward Taylor was a seasoned traveller. In peacetime, she visited the Far East, Europe, Virgin Islands, Mexico; during WWI she served in the American Red Cross in France and Germany. She visited British Guiana as a scientific illustrator of plants and animals. In between these travels, she spent time in artist colonies in different places, including the States and Mexico. The breadth of subject matter in her woodblock prints and watercolours demonstrates her insatiable excitement about the world she saw. 'Sea Turtle' combines that keen observation with a folk style that conjures the animal's original habitat.

Sea turtle.jpg

Ursula Mamlok said of her own music, 'My music is colorful, with the background of tonality – tonal centers … I can't shake it completely.' Her family was from Berlin; after Kristallnacht, they fled to Ecuador, from where Mamlok went to the States to study music. She remained in that country for most of the rest of her life, returning to Berlin for her last decade. She taught composition for many years, as well as producing an extensive composition output that included chamber music, orchestral works, solo music and pieces for children. 'From My Garden' is a reflective piece. Originally for oboe, horn and piano, this version is for solo viola. There is a sense of suspension throughout, and the edge that Mamlok walks between tonality and atonality is handled with care and craft.

The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Sixteen

Little seems to be known about Edith Maud Rawdon-Hastings (1833-1874). She seems best known for mothering six children and for saving Rowallan Castle in Ayrshire from dereliction. There are a few small drawings extant from her pen, kept safe in the galleries of the UK. They are all pencil sketches, and range from a rather beautiful landscape which wraps itself around a solitary walker and her dog, to this delightfully suave Skeleton Ball. There is movement in the dancers, wonderful detail in the orchestra, and every skull shows a different expression.

Skeleton Ball.jpg

Ethel Smyth is perhaps as close as any female composer gets to be a household name. Yes who can hum a tune by her, or recall the names of five of her works? In her own words:

“It may have puzzled certain readers when I said my friend hoped by this Festival to get my output at long last into the main stream. ‘But aren't you in the main stream now?’ such a one might ask.

Ah! it's a queer business! Because I have conducted my own operas and love sheepdogs; because I generally dress in tweeds, and sometimes, at winter afternoon concerts, have even conducted in them; because I was a militant suffragette and seized a chance of beating time to ‘The March of the Women' from the window of my cell in Holloway Prison with a toothbrush; because I have written books, spoken speeches, broadcast, and don't always make sure that my hat is on straight; for these and other equally pertinent reasons, in a certain sense I am well known. If I buy a pair of boots in London, and not having money enough produce an envelope with my name, the parcel is pressed into my hand: ‘We want no reference in your case, Madam!'

This is celebrity indeed! or shall we say notoriety? but it does not alter the fact that after having been on the job, so to speak, for over forty years, I have never yet succeeded in becoming even a tiny wheel in the English music machine; nor did this fantastic latter-day notoriety even pave the way that much it really might have done! to inclusion in programme schemes!”

The cello sonata, like much of Smyth’s output, demonstrates this subjectivity. It is music to be heard, both literally and symbolically. Dedicated to the cellist Julius Klengel, it is an exploration of virtuosic tone production rather than agility.


The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Fifteen

Eunice Pinney had an extremely difficult start to her adult life. Maligned publicly in a newspaper by her husband for leaving him, she set the record straight in the same publication, laying bare his alcoholism, infidelity, profligacy and abuse. Shortly afterwards, the couple divorced, allowing Pinney to find a much happier union. It was after this time that she appears to have started painting. Known as 'possibly the earliest American primitive watercolourist' (i.e. self-taught), her range of subjects was broad. She painted scenes, portraits, landscapes, and copies of literary artworks. There are 54 known works still extant. This one, 'Family Group at the Piano', demonstrates Pinney's eye for everyday truth. The wife plays with abandon; there is stifled boredom on the husband's face; and the the small child has long ago lost interest in the music, being much more focussed on making the doll fly.


Amy Beach was one of the first women to have her works played by an American orchestra, in the 1890s. Not only was she a prolific and extraordinary composer, she was also a champion of women's music. When in 1892 Dvorak completely dismissed that possibility of women being composers, Beach wrote to a newspaper, pointing out the fallacy of his remarks: 'From the year 1675 to the year 1885, women have composed 153 works, Including 55 serious operas, 6 cantatas, 53 comic operas, 17 operettas, 6 Singspiele, 4 ballets, 4 vaudevilles, 2 oratorios, one each of fares, pastorales, masques, ballads and buffas.'

Beach was equally at home in the larger forms she lists as she was in the works for solo instruments. Her oeuvre for piano is a particular highlight - from the virtuosic Ballade to the miniatures of the Children's Album, there is no denying her skill at writing for different levels of technical ability, without compromising musicality. 'Children's Carnival', while not in the virtuosic bracket, is a challenge for any developing pianist. Its six movements range from the opening Promenade, through pieces for the traditional carnival characters such as Columbine and Harlequin, to a more enigamtic 'Secrets'.

The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Fourteen

Victoria Crowe is known for both portraits and landscapes. In all her works, there is a very particular use of light that marks her work as hers. Perhaps this in part comes from her adopted country of Scotland; but it is in part something much more abstract. As she herself says, ‘I think I've always been interested in music and poetry and philosophy and religion and ideologies and symbolism; all of these things seem equally weighted for me as a painter.’ Crowe spent time in Russia, with Russian icon painting; there is certainly always a sense that even the blue behind the trees in a painting such as this one, Blue Snow and Fiery Trees, has a meaning above and beyond itself. The painting is one of a continuing series on trees in different seasons. The reflecting light makes one aware of what is behind the observer as much as of what is on the canvas.


Judith Weir writes from opera to solo voice, from full orchestra to single cello, for the virtuoso to the beginner. As Master of the Queen’s Music, she has an interest in ensuring high quality music education in schools, alongside her many workshops and projects with young composers. Opera is a particular pillar of her output; the piece here is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Atlantic Drift is the middle of 3 pieces for two violins, the whole of which takes its name from this middle movement. In the words of the composer:

The music of these violin duos has been influenced by the centuries-long flow of traditional music from the British Isles to North America and back again. The compositions are dedicated to several people who are keeping that transatlantic musical flow in motion today.

An earlier, even shorter version of Atlantic Drift, written for violin and piano, was first performed by Peter Sheppard Skaerved and Aaron Schorr at the Royal Academy of Music, London on 9th May 2006, in a concert to celebrate the 70th birthday of the American composer and transatlantic communicator, Elliott Schwartz. The melody is original, though clearly influenced by the music and perpetual tides of the Hebrides

The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Thirteen

In the eighteenth century, the prestigious Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in France capped the number of women members at any one time at four, as well as denying them entry into life drawing classes. Anne Vallayer-Coster was one of the 'lucky' four to gain admission, in 1770, going on to exhibit at several of the Paris salons. Known mainly for her still-lifes of flowers, fruit and seashells, it was her portraits and life-scenes that won her the patronage of Marie Antoinette and her sister. The subject matter for the 'Portrait of a Violinist' is extraordinary in itself; women violinists were few and far between in the eighteenth century. The hands seem strong and well-practised; there is a shadow under the chin where the violin has clearly rested. The scroll is a fascinating detail, as are the untrimmed strings.


How often do the lives of the women in this calendar begin with their birth into an artistic/musical family! Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre was no exception, yet more proof of the fundamental importance of role models and the availibility of, and access to, artistic stimuli and practice. At five, de la Guerre made her first appearance as a harpsichordist in the court of Louis XIV, subsequnetly remaining under his patronage for several years. As a composer, she produced harpsichord pieces, trio sonatas and cantatas; her one opera was sadly not a success. De la Guerre was also an extremely successful salonière, creating a series of concerts in her own home that ran for some time. Her Second Sonata in D Major for violin and continuo is a wonderfully-crafted exultation that proves Louis XIV's opinion: 'Dinner being over, His Majesty spoke to Mlle de la Guerre in a most gracious manner; after having praised her sonatas extensively, he said to her that they could not be compared to any other such works. Mlle de la Guerre could not have received higher praise, for these words revealed that the King had not only found her music to be most fine, but also to be original — a quality that today is extremely rare.'

The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Twelve

Grandma Moses began painting at the age of 78, becoming enormously successful throughout her remaining 23 years. In the words of her obituary in the New York Times:

Grandma Moses, the spry, indomitable "genuine American primitive" who became one of the country's most famous painters in her late seventies, died here today at the age of 101 […] The simple realism, nostalgic atmosphere and luminous color with which Grandma Moses portrayed homely farm life and rural countryside won her a wide following. She was able to capture the excitement of winter's first snow, Thanksgiving preparations and the new, young green of oncoming spring. Gay color, action and humor enlivened her portrayals of such simple farm activities as maple sugaring, soap-making, candle-making, haying, berrying and the making of apple butter. In person, Grandma Moses charmed wherever she went. A tiny, lively woman with mischievous gray eyes and a quick wit, she could be sharp-tongued with a sycophant and stern with an errant grandchild. Cheerful  as a cricket, even in her last years, she continued to be keenly observant of all that went on around her. Until her last birthday, Sept. 7, she rarely failed to do a little painting every day.

Apple Butter Making demonstrates exactly this. It reminds one of the same type of domesticity as embroidery, one which is perhaps made up more of memory and longing than of physical reality.


“Madeleine Dring was born on the moon… Arriving on a speck of cosmic dust she came face to face with the human race and has never really recovered.” 

The multi-talented Madeleine Dring has a widely varied output, from film scores, ballet and opera, to chamber and solo works. She has an unerring eye for good song lyrics; her songs still appear in exam repertoire lists, and on recital-hall platforms. Unfortunately, much of her other output seems sadly neglected, even the oboe music written for her husband, oboist Roger Lord. It is perhaps a result of how brilliantly easy Doing makes her music sound - the Color Suite, of which Blue Air is the second movement, is a case in point. The five-movement work, with each one based on a different color, borrows heavily from jazz idioms. It is a wonderfully crafted piece of music, and roves that virtuosity is not a requirement for musical worth.

The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Eleven

Henriëtte Ronner-Knip was yet another female artist who was taught by her artist father. When he became blind in 1832, Ronner-Knip gradually took over managing the family, using her art to earn a living. She was one of the few nineteenth-century women for whom this continued after marriage; her husband became her manager. Ronner-Knip’s subject matter narrowed to animals, then mainly cats and dogs. She lived much of her life in the Netherlands, and was awarded the Order of Leopold in 1887. Cat Resting shows one of her favorite subjects, the long-haired tabby. The level of detail is exquisite; each hair is executed with equal care. Even the signature is beautifully executed.


Maude Valerie White was extraordinarily successful as a composer during her lifetime, particularly of song. She has been almost completely neglected since, victim to the post-WWI deep suspicion of Victorian emotion. Yet White was a consummate craftsperson and musician; she was the first female student to win the Mendelssohn Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, and she successfully managed a career as a pianist, composer, teacher and vocal coach. She was fluent in five languages, setting poems in all of them. The Devout Lover, to a poem by Walter Herries Pollock, was a huge success when it was first published. Its faint reminders of Renaissance courtliness match well with White’s soaring and memorable melodic lines.

It is not mine to sing the stately grace,

The great soul beaming in my lady's face,

To write no sounding odes to me is given,

Wherein her eyes outshine the stars in heaven.


The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Ten

Norah Neilson Gray was one of the Glasgow Girls, a group of women artists who formed part of the Glasgow School in the early twentieth century, and many of whom were also active in the fight for women’s suffrage. She was known for portraits as well as narrative scenes such as this one, The Scottish Women's Hospital In The Cloister of the Abbaye at Royaumont, painted during her service as a nurse in the Scottish Women’s Hospitals during WWI. She returned to her studio after the war, eventually winning a medal for a portrait of a Belgian exile painted in 1915. This painting of the Royaumont hospital has an extraordinary lightness to it. Despite the sombre subject matter, there is a humanity in all the figures, medical and injured alike. There is exhaustion, but also unity.


Lili Boulanger, who died at the tragically young age of 23 in 1918, wrote an extraordinarily profound and varied oeuvre in her short composing life. She studied a wide variety of instruments and music theory at the Paris Conservatoire, winning the Prix de Rome with her cantata Faust et Hélène at the age of 19, the first woman to win the first prize outright. The Hymne au Soleil was written in 1912, a paean in praise of light at a time when the darkest of clouds were already amassing over Europe. 

Let us bless the power of the reborn sun.

With all the universe let us celebrate its return.

Crowned with splendor, it rises, it soars.

The waking of the earth is a hymn of love.

The Salon Advent Calendar: Day Nine

Diana Scultori was both an excellent artist and an astute businesswoman, who, unusually for the late sixteenth century, was given a Papal Privilege to make and market her own work. Like so many women of her era, she learned her craft from her father, also an artist. Consequently, she became known for her engravings and prints. Her subjects were often either religious or from mythology. This one is Christ Making Peter Head of the Church, and may be a copy of a tapestry made for the Sistine Chapel. The detail is extraordinary; every face has a different expression, from clear shock to boredom to adoration.


The Countess of Dia was a medieval trobairitz. Her fame grew throughout the twentieth-century; sadly Fanny Raymond Ritter, who wrote a defence of women’s creativity in Music in 1877, had to guess at the existence of ‘trouveresses’. There is still a fair amount of guesswork in piecing together her life, although it seems that much of her music is about her relationship with her lover, Raimbaut of Orange. A Chantar is the sole surviving song by a trobairitz that has its music.

I must sing of what I do not want,

I am so angry with the one whom I love,

Because I love him more than anything:

Mercy nor courtesy moves him,

Neither does my beauty, nor my worthiness,

nor my good sense,

For I am deceived and betrayed

As much as I should be, if I were ugly.