As occasional model for no less than Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones, Marie Spartali Stillman (1844-1927) remains a well-known face of the Pre-Raphealite era. Born into a well-to-do Anglo-Greek family in London, she was greatly admired as one of 'The Three Graces', alongside Aglaia Coronio and Maria Zambaco, and photographed several times by Julia Margaret Cameron. Her circle of close friends included, among others, William Michael Rossetti, Lucy Madox Brown Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown, George Frederick Watts, Jane Morris, the Ionides family, and James Abbott MacNeill Whistler. What few people now realise is that behind the enigmatic face lay talent and determination. A gifted artist in her own right, Marie persuaded her father to allow her to study under Ford Madox Brown. She was a prolific painter throughout her long career - a career that she was determined to have in a time when women of her status were actively discouraged from doing so, and that she maintained throughout her marriage.
She exhibited regularly at the Dudley from 1870, the Grosvenor from 1877 and at the New Gallery from 1887 until 1908, in addition to numerous exhibitions in the United States between 1875 and 1908. Her husband, William James Stillman (1828-1901), a New Englander by birth, was an early and important figure in the development of American taste for a domestic school of painting. In 1855 he founded and edited "The Crayon", the first successful American fine art journal, with John Ruskin's encouragement and with William Michael Rossetti as his London correspondent. Stillman painted with members of the Hudson River school and was a pioneering and creative photographer. In Europe, following his marriage to Marie Spartali in 1871, he was a war correspondent and Rome correspondent for "The Times" from 1876 until his retirement in 1898. This is the first biography of Marie Spartali Stillman. Based on complete access to her family's archives, it fully examines her work as well as placing it in to social and personal context. This richly illustrated and comprehensive book catalogues more than 170 works by Marie Spartali Stillman, many previously unknown.
As much of her work can only be found in private collections, many of the works illustrated here have not been seen by the public since her last exhibition in 1908.