Marianne Stokes (née Maria Léopoldine Preindlsberger)

1855Graz, Austria | 1927London, United-Kingdom
Helene Schjerfbeck, Two profiles, Marianne Stokes in the foreground, 1881, oil on wood panel, 22 x 34 cm., Helsinki, Art museum, © Kansallisgalleria

"> Marianne Stokes (née Maria Léopoldine Preindlsberger) — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Helene Schjerfbeck, Two profiles, Marianne Stokes in the foreground, 1881, oil on wood panel, 22 x 34 cm., Helsinki, Art museum, © Kansallisgalleria

Austrian-British painter.

Although Marianne Preindlsberger Stokes never claimed allegiance to a specific group, her paintings have been successively described as naturalist, symbolist and decorative; indeed some even verge on impressionist.
Following her initial studies at the Graz Drawing Academy, M. Stokes was awarded a grant that enabled her to move to Munich in 1874. As the Academy of Fine Arts Munich did not accept women at the time, she took lessons under Professor Wilhelm Lindenschmit the Younger (1829-1895). In 1880 M. Stokes attended Académie Trélat de Vigny in Paris, followed by Académie Colarossi, where she won a medal in the “expressive heads competition” in 1882. She met the Finnish painter Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946), with whom she struck up an enduring friendship. During the Parisian studios’ summer recess in 1881, they set off on a painting expedition to Brittany. M. Stokes showed her work for the first time in France, in 1883, contributing two canvases to the Société des amis des arts de Seine-et-Oise in Versailles. She obtained an honourable mention at the 1883 Salon de Paris with her piece Réflexion. The booklet from the 1883 and 1884 Salons refer to the artist as a student of Gustave Courtois (1852-1923) and Raphaël Collin (1850-1916).

In July 1883, while staying at the Hôtel des Voyageurs in Pont-Aven in Brittany, M. Stokes met her future husband, the British landscape artist Adrian Scott Stokes (1854-1935). Both Catholics, they married in 1884. The couple set up home in London and later in the artists’ colony of St Ives in Cornwall and travelled extensively. Drawing his inspiration from these journeys (to Switzerland, Italy, Ireland, Denmark, Austria and Hungary), A. Stokes published several articles and books illustrated by his wife’s paintings and engravings, as well as his own works. He painted landscapes while she depicted mothers and children.
It was in the wake of a trip to Italy in the early 1890s that M. Stokes abandoned oils in favour of a more spiritual medium: gesso grosso and tempera. She moved away from terracotta colours and naturalism, veering towards a more decorative, religious and symbolic art form. In the Pre-Raphaelite tradition, from 1895 she began signing her paintings with a simple monogram. St Elizabeth of Hungary Spinning for the Poor (1895), painted in oils, marked this transition, which saw its consecration in Madonna and Child (c. 1907-1908).
Alongside her many exhibitions, M. Stokes won a gold medal at the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893 and was elected member of the Society of Painters in Tempera in 1905. The National Portrait Gallery purchased her portrait of John Westlake in 1921 and the artist was made an associate member of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1923.

M. Stokes portrayed women and children, a subject that was hardly likely to cause any ripples among her contemporaries. By highlighting the divine in the small and everyday, however, she was actually displaying a streak of rebellion. Her oeuvre represented a synthesis of art movements – naturalism, impressionism, decorative art and symbolism – and through the themes she explored, such as motherhood, work, solitude, devotion and piety, she was able to express her personal spirituality. She depicted children in a liminal space on the cusp of adolescence – the period of lost innocence. Whatever the subject matter, religious, peasant, anecdotal or symbolist, it was imbued with an element of silence, an aura of piety that became the guideline of her entire oeuvre. M. Stokes’s canvases feature in the collections of many international museums such as the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.

Estelle Voisin Dower

Translated from French by Caroline Taylor.

Publication made in partnership with musée d’Orsay.
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions

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