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Mary Beale | Baroque painter

Mary Beale (née Cradock; bapt. 26 March 1633 – bur. 8 October 1699) was an English portrait painter.
She was part of a small band of female professional artists working in London.
Beale became the main financial provider for her family through her professional work - a career she maintained from 1670/71 to the 1690s.
Beale was also a writer, whose prose Discourse on Friendship of 1666 presents scholarly, uniquely female take on the subject.

Her 1663 manuscript Observations, on the materials and techniques employed "in her painting of Apricots", though not printed, is the earliest known instructional text in English written by a female painter.
Praised first as a "virtuous" practitioner in "Oyl Colours" by Sir William Sanderson in his 1658 book Graphice: Or The use of the Pen and Pensil; In the Excellent Art of PAINTING, Beale's work was later commended by court painter Sir Peter Lely and, soon after her death, by the author of "An Essay towards an English-School", his account of the most noteworthy artists of her generation.

The most common way to learn how to paint at the time was to copy great works and masterpieces that were accessible.
Mary Beale preferred to paint in oil and water colours.
Whenever she did a drawing, she would draw in crayon.

Peter Lely, who succeeded Anthony van Dyck as the court painter, took a great interest in Mary's progress as an artist, especially since she would practice painting by imitating some of his work.
ary Beale started working by painting favours for people she knew in exchange for small gifts or favors.
Charles Beale kept close record of everything Mary did as an artist.
He would take notes on how she painted, what business transactions took place, who came to visit, and what praise she would receive.

Charles wrote thirty notebooks' worth of observations over the years, calling Mary "my dearest heart".
She became a semi-professional portrait painter in the 1650s and 1660s, working from her home, first in Covent Garden and later in Fleet Street in London.
When living in Covent Garden, Beale was a near neighbor to artist Joan Carlile.


The style that Mary Beale painted in was Baroque.
Baroque art is a style of sculpture, painting, music, and architecture that was prominent in Europe from the early 17th century until the mid 18th.
Baroque art is characterized by use of light and shadow, depictions of movement, as well as use of rich color, all to elicit a sense of grandeur and awe.
Baroque portraiture in particular is known for its rich colors, light contrasts, and attention to fabric detail.

Mary Beale's paintings are often described as "vigorous" and "masculine". (It was common to praise a woman for her work by calling her "masculine".)
The colour is seen as pure, sweet, natural, clear and fresh, although some critics see her colouring as "heavy and stiff".
Due to copying Italian masterpieces as practice, Mary Beale is said to have acquired "an Italian air and style".

Not too many could compete with her "colour, strength, force, or life".
Sir Peter Lely admired Beale's work, saying she "worked with a wonderful body of colour, and was exceedingly industrious".
Others criticise her work as weak in expression and finish with disagreeable colours and poorly rendered hands.
It is sometimes described as "scratchy" with a "limited colour palette" and too closely imitates the work of Lely.

In the decades after her death, art historian George Vertue praised her work by saying "Mrs. Mary Beale painted in oil very well" and "work'd with a wonderfull body of colors".

Some of her work can be found on display in the Geffrye Museum in London, though the largest public collection can be found at Moyse's Hall museum, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
Beale was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Geffrye Museum in 1975, which transferred to the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne the following year. | Source: © Wikipedia

Mary Beale (nata Cradock; Suffolk, 26 marzo 1633 - Pall Mall, 8 ottobre 1699) è stata una pittrice Inglese, tra le ritrattiste professioniste dell'era barocca di maggior successo alla fine del XVIII secolo, grazie alla perseveranza nella sua attività.
Lodata da Richard Gibson e dal pittore di corte Peter Lely, è considerata alla pari di Joan Carlile, un'altra ritrattista inglese, che fu una delle prime donne a praticare la pittura a livello professionale.

Mary Beale riuscì a sostenere finanziariamente la sua famiglia attraverso la sua attività di ritrattista professionista.

Il suo libro Observations (Osservazioni), benché mai pubblicato ufficialmente, fu uno dei primi libri educativi mai scritti da una donna, ed annunciò spavaldamente la sua autorità in fatto di pittura.
Mary Beale spiccò tra le donne della sua epoca per la sua franchezza e per il successo della sua attività, che le permise di essere il sostegno della famiglia.

Una donna d'affari professionista

Mary Beale preferiva dipingere con colori ad olio e ad acqua; ogni volta che faceva un disegno, usava pastelli a cera.
Peter Lely, che successe ad Anthony van Dyck come pittore di corte, si interessò molto ai progressi di Mary come artista, specialmente dal momento che ella faceva pratica imitando una parte della sua opera.
Mary Beale iniziò a dipingere per persone che conosceva, in cambio di piccoli regali o favori.

Charles Beale tenne un'accurata registrazione di tutto ciò che Mary fece come artista.
Prendeva appunti su come dipingeva, che transazioni commerciali avevano luogo, chi veniva a fare visita e che elogi riceveva.

Charles scrisse trenta taccuini di osservazioni nel corso degli anni, chiamando Mary "il mio carissimo cuore".
Ella divenne una ritrattista semiprofessionista negli anni 1650 e 1660, lavorando dalla sua casa, prima a Covent Garden e poi in Fleet Street a Londra.

Elogi e critiche

I dipinti di Mary Beale sono spesso descritti come "vigorosi" e "mascolini".
(Era comune all'epoca elogiare una donna per il suo lavoro definendola "mascolina".)

Il colore è visto come puro, dolce, naturale, chiaro e fresco, sebbene alcuni critici vedano invece la sua colorazione come "pesante e rigida".
Copiando i capolavori italiani per fare pratica, si dice che Mary Beale avesse acquisito "un'aria e uno stile italiano".

Non molti potevano competere con il suo "colore, forza, vigore, o vita".
Sir Peter Lely ammirava il lavoro di lei, dicendo che "lavorava con una meravigliosa massa di colore, ed era straordinariamente industriosa".
Altri criticano il suo lavoro come debole nell'espressione e nella finitura con colori sgradevoli e mani rese in modo scadente.

A volte il suo stile viene descritto come "raffazzonato" con una "tavolozza di colori limitata" e che imita troppo strettamente il lavoro di Lely.

Una parte del suo lavoro si può trovare in mostra nel Museo Geffrye a Londra, benché la più grande collezione pubblica si possa trovare nel museo di Moyse's Hall, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
La Beale fu il soggetto di un'esposizione solista al Museo Geffrye nel 1975, che si trasferì alla Galleria d'arte Towner a Eastbourne l'anno seguente.