Elizabeth Southerden Thompson England
11-3-1846 Lausanne, SUI – 10-2-1933 Meath, IREBack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Elizabeth Southerden Thompson specialized in painting scenes from British military campaigns and battles, including the Crimean War and the Battle of Waterloo. The Roll Call (purchased by Queen Victoria), The Defence of Rorke's Drift, and Scotland Forever!, showing the Scots Greys at the Battle of Waterloo, are among her better-known works.
Elizabeth Southerden Thompson began receiving art instruction in 1862, while growing up in Italy. In 1866 she went to South Kensington, London and entered the Female School of Art. She became a Roman Catholic along with the rest of the family after they moved to Florence in 1869. While in Florence, under the tutelage of the artist Giuseppe Bellucci, Elizabeth attended the Accademia di Belle Arti.
Initially she concentrated on religious subjects like The Magnificat (1872), but upon going to Paris in 1870 she was exposed to battle scenes from Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier and Édouard Detaille, and switched her focus to war paintings. With the painting Missing (1873) a Franco-Prussian War battle scene, depicting the common soldiers' suffering and heroism, she earned her first submission to the Royal Academy. After The Roll Call was shown in 1874 at the Academy, she became a nineteenth-century celebrity, due to the paintings' immense popularity.
Elizabeth Southerden Thompson paintings were generally realistic in detail with aspects such as confusion, mud and exhaustion being accurately portrayed. Her works tend to focus on British troops shown in action, or shortly after it, but avoiding moments of close hand-to-hand combat. They are often shown as their opponents might have seen them, but relatively few of the opponents themselves are shown.
Elizabeth Southerden Thompson's career and fame peaked with her 1877 marriage to Sir William Francis Butler, a distinguished officer of the British Army, from Tipperary in Ireland. Not only was she now married, breaking the heart of many young men, but now she would travel to the far reaches of the Empire with her husband and raise their six children. During this time Lady Butler came under the influence of her Irish husband's belief that the colonial imperialism of the United Kingdom and other European powers might not be in the best interest of the natives in colonial lands. However she continued to paint scenes showing the valor of the ordinary British soldier.
On her husband's retirement from the army, she moved with him to Ireland, where they lived at Bansha Castle, County Tipperary. Lady Butler was widowed in 1910, but continued to live at Bansha until 1922, when she took up residence with the youngest of her six children.
Influences: Giuseppe Bellucci, Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier, Édouard Detaille
Traveled: Italy, France, England, Ireland