Anne Killigrew

Anne Killigrew

A Bright Soul

“Still with a greater Blaze she shone, And her bright Soul broke out on ev'ry side.”
- Poet Laureate, John Dryden

Anne Killigrew did not, as far as we can tell, ever paint professionally. But she was no ordinary amateur artist. For her, painting was one element of the ‘sister arts’ of painting and poetry, a tradition which stretched back to antiquity, but which was particularly esteemed in Britain in the Seventeenth Century. As the Greek poet, Simonides, said; ‘a poem is a speaking picture, a picture is a silent poem’. No British artist in the Seventeenth Century practiced these ‘sister arts’ as successfully as Killigrew.

In fact, Killigrew probably saw herself as a poet first, and a painter second. The works seen here in this exhibition all relate to her interest in mythological subjects, in particular the story of Venus, and should be seen alongside her poems as part of a single creative act. Killigrew was a Maid of Honour to Mary of Modena, wife of James, Duke of York, and later Queen. Mary encouraged poetry and literature, creating a court in stark contrast to that of her priapic brother-in-law, Charles II.


Anne Killigrew (1660-1685) | Portrait of a Lady

Anne Killigrew (1660-1685) | Portrait of a Lady, probably the artist, c.1685
Oil on canvas, 46.5 x 36.5 cm | Private Collection, Scotland


We have no record of how Killigrew first studied her painting. But it is possible, given the similarities in their work, that she was taught or at least encouraged by Joan Carlile. They were both connected to the Court, and lived close each other near Whitehall Palace. Unfortunately, only four of Killigrew’s paintings are known today. Three will be presented in our June exhibition in London, '“Bright Souls”: The Forgotten Story of Britain’s First Female Artists.' We have a good idea of what her lost works looked like from sources such as her poems, and hopefully more works will yet be found.




“Bright Souls”: The Forgotten Story of Britain’s First Female Artists 

An exhibition presenting the lost art and forgotten story of Britain’s pioneering female painters. 
Monday 24th June to Saturday 6th July 2019  
Weekdays 10.30am to 5pm | Saturday 12 noon to 4pm 
Lyon & Turnbull, 22 Connaught Street, London, W2 2AF  
0207 930 9115 | 


ANNE KILLIGREW (1660 - 1685) | Portrait of a Lady, probably the artist | Oil on canvas, 46.5x36.5cm. | Private Collection, Scotland. Cat. 11



Recent Articles