Joan Carlile

Joan Carlile

The Great Paintress

We are delighted to present works by Joan Carlile, the first British female professional artist, in our London summer exhibition, '“Bright Souls”: The Forgotten Story of Britain’s First Female Artists'.

Joan Carlile was the first British female professional artist. There are no records of her early training, but it is likely that she was self-taught. In particular, she benefited from access to the collection of Charles I - her husband, Lodowick, was a courtier - and she is recorded as copying a number of the king’s works. Her earliest portraits date from around 1640, and probably came about as a result of social contacts in Richmond, where she lived.


Joan Carlile (c.1606-1679) | The Carlile Family with Sir Justinian Isham in Richmond Park, ‘The Stag Hunt’, early 1650s? |
Oil on canvas, 61 x 74 cm | Kindly lent by the Lamport Hall Trustees


But in 1654 she opened a studio in Covent Garden, London’s artistic quarter. Her friend, Bishop Duppa, wrote that she did so, ‘to make use of her skill to som more Advantage then hetherto she hath don’. A number of portraits from this period show full-length women wearing white satin dresses. They differ significantly from portraits painted by her male counterparts in both their scale, and the detail of the landscape backgrounds, which are highly complex.

In 1656, however, the Carliles moved back to Richmond, having apparently not been able to sustain a practice in London. We do not know why this was the case, but it is interesting to note that she seems to have painted no individual portraits of men. Were male British sitters not ready to be painted by a woman?

This June, "Bright Souls": The Forgotten Story of Britian’s First Female Artists will present a number of works by Joan Carlile alongside works by Mary Beale and Anne Killigrew to illustrate how these accomplished, pioneering women managed to achieve success in an age when women had few career options, and even fewer rights.




“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 | 


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