Gillies, Margaret (DNB00)

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GILLIES, MARGARET (1803–1887), miniature and water-colour painter, was the second daughter of William Gillies, a Scotch merchant settled in Throgmorton Street, London, where she was born on 7 Aug. 1803. Having lost her mother when eight years old, and her father having met with reverses, she and her younger sister, Mary, were placed under the care of their uncle, Adam Gillies, lord Gillies [q. v.], one of the judges of the court of session in Scotland, by whom they were educated, and subsequently introduced to the best society in Edinburgh. There she met Sir Walter Scott, Lord Erskine, Lord Jeffrey, and other famous men; but before she was twenty she determined to earn for herself an honourable livelihood, and returned with her sister to her father's home in London. Mary Gillies became an authoress, and died in 1870, while Margaret took the somewhat bold step of becoming a professional artist. She received some lessons in miniature-painting from Frederick Cruickshank, and quickly gained a reputation in that branch of art, although she had had no regular artistic training. Before she was twenty-four she was commissioned to paint a miniature of the poet Wordsworth, at whose residence, Rydal Mount, she spent several weeks. She painted also a portrait of Charles Dickens, and one of Mrs. Marsh, the novelist, and for many successive years contributed portraits to the exhibitions of the Royal Academy. She then went for a while to Paris, where she worked in the studios of Hendrik and Ary Scheffer, and on her return to England she exhibited from time to time portraits in oil. It was, however, not long before she devoted herself to water-colour-painting, usually choosing domestic, romantic, or sentimental subjects, and it is on these that her chief distinction rests. In 1852 she was elected an associate of the Old (now the Royal) Society of Painters in Water-colours, and was a constant contributor to its exhibitions down to the year of her death. Some of the best of her exhibited works were ‘Past and Future,’ 1855, and ‘The Heavens are telling,’ 1856, both of which have been engraved; ‘Rosalind and Celia,’ 1857; ‘Una and the Red Cross Knight in the Cavern of Despair,’ ‘An Eastern Mother,’ and ‘Vivia Perpetua in Prison,’ 1858; ‘A Father and Daughter,’ 1859; ‘Imogen after the Departure of Posthumus,’ 1860; ‘Beyond,’ 1861; ‘The Wanderer,’ 1868; ‘Prospero and Miranda,’ 1874; ‘Cercando Pace,’ a beautiful drawing in three compartments, 1875; and ‘The Pilgrimage,’ which was exhibited at the Royal Jubilee Exhibition at Manchester in 1887. Her last work was ‘Christiana by the River of Life,’ exhibited in 1887. She lived for many years in Church Row, Hampstead, but died at The Warren, Crockham Hill, Kent, on 20 July 1887, of pleurisy, after a few days' illness.

[Times, 26 July 1887; Academy 30 July 1887; Miss Clayton's English Female Artists, 1876, ii. 87–94; Exhibition Catalogues of the Royal Academy, 1832–61; Exhibition Catalogues of the Royal Society of Painters in Water-colours, 1852–87; Mary Howitt: An Autobiography, 1889, ii.]

R. E. G.