Historic Art | Elizabeth Forbes

Forbes - the open book ob 24x18 web

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The Open Book

Technique: oil on board

Dimensions: 24x18 in.

signed lower right
painting depicts The Fiftieth Birthday of Agassiz by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, verse inscribed on verso.

About the Artist

Born in Ottawa, Forbes was the daughter of William Armstrong, an employee of the Government of Canada. The youngest of a family of boys, she was sent to school in England with her mother as chaperone. Her father died two months later, after which she and her mother lived with an uncle in Chelsea. His home was next door to the residence of William Michael Rossetti, although it appears she never actually met him. She then studied at the South Kensington Art School (now the Royal College of Art).

In 1878 Forbes returned with her mother to Canada where she continued her studies at the Arts Student League of Toronto. She went to study in Munich where, though apparently unhappy, she was influenced by the American artist Frank Currier. In 1882 she went with her mother to the artists colony at Port Aven in Brittany. While there she started to exhibit her works and sent small watercolours to the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in London. She moved to that city in 1883 where she remained for two and a half years and became a regular exhibitor at several galleries, including the Royal Academy.

In the Autumn of 1885, Forbes and her mother moved to Newlyn, England. She became a popular figure in the artistic community of Newlyn and was much involved in the city's artistic organizations, such as the dramatic society. In 1889 she married Newlyn School painter Stanhope Forbes. Their son, Alec, was born in 1893. That same year she won a Gold Medal for an oil painting at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

In 1900 Forbes held an exhibition called Children and Child Lore in London. In 1904 she and her husband settled at Higher Faugan, a house which they designed and had built for themselves. An exhibition in 1904 featured original drawings for the book King Arthur's Wood.


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