OIL PAINTING: New Risen Hope, 1904
This is probably the first of two versions of the same subject in which a child portrait is transformed into a Wattsian allegory of evolution. The image was painted over a piece of previously painted-on canvas and may have been an experimental development of an earlier portrait motif. The other, more elaborate version, also dated 1904, was bought on the recommendation of George Clausen by the Felton Bequest for the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, in 1906 following its exhibition at the New English Art Club. The Tate painting was purchased by the Chantrey Bequest in 1924, two years after Swynnerton was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, the first woman ARA to be elected by ballot. Although Swynnerton's career was advanced by supporters such as Clausen and Sargent, who presented her Oreads to the Tate in 1922, her success owed more to her tenacity and New Woman convictions. Swynnerton was a well- known publicist for women's rights, having founded the Manchester Society of Women Painters with Susan Isabel Dacre in 1879, and was one of the signatories of the declaration in favour of women's suffrage in 1889. The painting New Risen Hope may therefore have been conceived as a statement of female emancipation, an affirmative alternative to Watts's forlorn Hope exhibited in 1886: a sprightly child, reminiscent of Baroque personifications of the Christian soul, rises up to greet a new era and is glorified as a symbol of female energy and optimism.