(This was originally written as a justification of a purchase for an object collected by the Davis Museum. The full text may be found by viewing the object file. This is part of a Monthly Series of focusing on Female Artists by Claire Milldrum.)
In the 18th century, women faced particularly difficult challenges to build an artistic career. It was not until the mid 19th century that women overall were able to make significant strides towards equal access to resources and recognition. They did not receive the same kind of training as their male peers, though women of the higher social classes had the time and resources to gain an education in artistic processes and technical skills.
Lady Louisa Augusta Greville (born 1743, died after 1803) must have been one of these early wealthy women who produced drawings and etchings but did not survive of their profits. She came from a long line of patrons and collectors. Born in 1743 in the Warwick Castle near Birmingham, England, she was the oldest of eight children of Earl Francis Greville and Lady Elizabeth Hamilton.
Starting in 1754 England’s Royal Society of Arts gave out awards for distinguished art. Originally it carried a cash prize for artists that were under twenty-five years old and worked in fine or industrial arts. In 1758 it was redesigned to “excite an Emulation among persons of rank and condition.” The first gold medal winner in drawing was Greville, which she won for two more years in a row. She was the first in 1759 to take a gold medal in Etching. She was most active between 1758 and 1761.
Joseph Groupy, a watercolorist and etcher, is thought to have been her teacher. She also has stylistic similarities to Salvator Rosa(1615-1673) and Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), most likely due to her father’s passion for collecting Italian Art. Both Rosa and Carracci are well represented in the collection of the Davis Museum. The Museum also owns two works by George Romney that depict her nephew, Lord Brooke.
Her work can be found at the Tate Britain, the British Museum, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Henry Walpole Library. Yet, very little is known about her, which is a travesty to our understanding of women artists.