Harrison, Mary (DNB00)

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HARRISON, MARY (1788–1875), flower-painter, born in Liverpool in 1788, was the daughter of William Rossiter, a prosperous hat manufacturer of Stockport and Liverpool. In 1814 she married William Harrison and visited France after Napoleon's abdication. Her eldest son was born at Amiens, and she had to return home in haste in 1815. Settling again in Liverpool her husband joined partnership in a brewery, in which he lost all his capital. Mrs. Harrison then turned as a means of support for her family to the art she had loved for its own sake. She became a favourite teacher in Liverpool, Chester, and the country round. In 1829 she came to London, and on the foundation in 1831 of the New Society (now the Royal Institute of Painters in Water-Colours) she became one of the original members. her art, though of limited scope, was of a very delicate and refined nature. Her fruit and flower pieces, unfailingly exhibited year after year at the gallery in Pall Mall, bore unmistakable marks of taste, feeling, and close observation of nature. Her first works, executed in the second decade of the century, followed the prim fashion of the time in representing detached specimens of fruit or cut sprigs of garden flowers, or a branch of blackberry blossom lying near a bird's nest. As she progressed, the beauty of growing plants, especially of wild flowers, engaged her attention. Delightful groups of viollets, cowslips, wood anemones, and primroses would vie with snowdrops, crocuses and the most beautiful roses, in her annual supply to the society's exhibitions. She painted primroses in three panels, 'Infancy, maturity, Decay'. Specimens of her work are to be seen in the gallery of the South Kensington Museum. Graves gives the number of the pictures she exhibited as over fifty. After a life of unending, but not unpleasant, labour she died at Hampstead on 25 Nov. 1875 in the eighty-eighth year of her age, having previously ascertained that the pictures she had just been preparing for the winter exhibition of her society had been despatched to their destination. Her two sons, George Henry and William Frederick, are separately noticed.

[Athenæum, No. 2510, 4 Dec. 1875, p. 758; Bryan's Dict. 1886; Grave's Dict. of Artists who have exhibited.]

R. H.