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.