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Sophie Gengembre Anderson was a French-British artist born in Paris in 1823. She became praised for her breathtaking idyllic portrayals of children and women, like her masterpiece Elaine. The artist began her career working with stone lithography. Although French-born, Anderson is British as she lived in London for a significant time.
Sophie’s father was a French artist and architect named Charles Antoine Colomb Gengembre, and her mother, Marianne Farey, was English. As a young child, Sophie was influenced by her father’s surroundings, mainly when they lived in Paris. Charles was in contact with many French artists and intellectuals, like the actor François Joseph Talma. She and her family moved from Paris to a more low-key area in 1829, where they lived for almost fifteen years.
Around the age of seventeen, Sophie became fascinated with the art of portrait painting when she met a traveling painter in her town. She had two siblings, Henry, who became an artist, and Philip Hubert, who became a successful architect in New York. Philip kept the surname Hubert that his family used while living in the US. In 1843, Sophie returned to Paris, where she studied under Charles de Steuben, a Romanticist painter. Although she had tutelage, she was highly self-taught.
Sophie traveled to Russia, where she stayed for about a year studying painting and meeting other women artists. With the break out of the 1848 French Revolution, the Anderson family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. During this period, her brother Henry entered the local art scene as a painter. Sophie also became known for her talents as she participated in the 1849 exhibit of the Western Art Union Gallery. She also contributed to the Historical Collections of the Great West with her art, a series organized by Henry Howe in 1851.
While in the US, Sophie met English artist Walter Anderson, who she collaborated with creating portraits. Sophie and Walter got married while she was living in Manchester, Pennsylvania. During this time, she built a career in producing colored lithographic prints, known as chromolithography, for Louis Prang & Company.
In 1854, the artist moved to London with her family, where she began to exhibit almost immediately. In 1855, Sophie was highly praised for her still-life An American Market Basket shown in the Royal Society of British Artists. She also participated in exhibitions at the Royal Academy, and the British Institution - quite the achievement at the time for a woman, as they were rarely accepted.
Sophie and her husband moved to the Island of Capri in 1871, a hot spot for many artists at the time, like John Singer Sargent, Frederick Leighton, Edouard Alexandre Sain, Jean Benner, and Walter McLaren. She was quite ill but continued painting. By 1894, they returned to Falmouth, England, where Sophie continued to exhibit her work.
Sophie G. Anderson passed away in March 1903, only two months after the passing of her husband, Walter. She built a legacy as a successful female artist as she broke barriers, inserting herself in a male-dominated area, opening the path for many women artists to come.