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Sophie Gengembre Anderson

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Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1823 – 10 March 1903) was a French-born British artist who specialised in genre painting of children and women, typically in rural settings. She began her career as a lithographer and painter of portraits, collaborating with Walter Anderson on portraits of American Episcopal bishops. Her work, Elaine, was the first public collection purchase of a woman artist. Her painting No Walk Today was purchased for more than £1 million.


Sophie was born in Paris, the daughter of Charles Antoine Colomb Gengembre, a French architect and artist, and his English wife, Marianne Farey (1779-1883), a daughter of John Farey Sr (1766-1826) and his wife Sophia Hubert. They married at St Pancras Church, London, on 12 April 1818 Her father was born in 1790 and began working as an architect at age 19. He worked primarily in municipal commissions, like the Mint of the City of Cassel, which he designed and built when he was 19. He was injured during the Revolution of 1830 on the same day that his son Philip was born. The family then went to London, where Gengembre worked as an architect for Charles Fourier. He returned to France and continued his work as an architect, designing communal schools around France.


The family moved to America and adopted the surname Hubert, because of difficulties in people pronouncing their french surname.


After moving to Cincinnati, Ohio, he settled in Manchester, Pennsylvania, and by 1863 had designed pro bono the Allegheny City Hall. He stopped speaking English in protest after he was offered a share of the graft of over-inflated construction costs.


They lived in Paris during the early years of Sophie's life, where her father was acquainted with artists, intellectuals, and actors, like François Joseph Talma. Circumstances required that the family leave Paris and live in a "remote area in France" from 1829 to 1843. At seventeen she developed an interest in art when a travelling portrait painter visited her town.


She had two brothers, Philip and Henry P. Gengembre. Her brother Philip changed his name to Philip Hubert, using his grandmother's maiden name, and was a successful architect in New York City. She was largely self-taught in art, but briefly studied portrait painting with Charles de Steuben in about 1843, when she lived with family friends in Paris. Soon after she began her studies, he left for Russia and did not return within the one year allotted for her studies. She did develop relationships with other women artists at the school where she gained a little more instruction.


The family left France for the United States to escape the 1848 revolution. The family first settled in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she met her future husband, the British genre artist Walter Anderson. Her brother Henry P. Gengembre (b. 1825) was also an artist, active in Cincinnati in the early 1850s.


Her portrait, figure and Brittany landscape paintings were exhibited in October 1849 at the Western Art Union Gallery. Also exhibited was a three panel set of Victorian London scenes entitled The Ladder of Love, which was described as "the lady, in her flowery 'May of Life,' awaits in her father's garden a stolen interview with her lover; in the second, she is seen eagerly caught in his impatient arms, ere he has yet left the ladder upon which he surmounted the garden wall; in the third, having received and given reveals of unfaltering love, she walks alone again – beautiful in the enrobing light of a summer moon, happy in the assurance that the warmth and devotedness of her affection is reciprocated."

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