With a discerning eye and a ‘delicacy of tint and touch,’ Brighton-based artist Eleanor Brace carved for herself a determined and praiseworthy place in the British art scene.
Very little is known about the first half of Brace’s life. She was daughter to a Navy Captain, Sir Edward Brace (1770-1843). This higher standing in society might suggest that Brace had access to arts education, despite the limited possibilities for women in the 19th century.
However, it is not until the 1880s that she appears to begin exhibiting her work. Perhaps it had remained a hobby, as it had to for so many women, before these years. By the late 19th century there was a growing womanly presence in the art world, with specific societies being set up and space made in the established, eminent institutions. Might it be that Brace saw these changes and decided to put herself forward professionally?
Whatever the case, her works were a success. Brace exhibited frequently at many different venues and with many different institutions, both within London and across the country. She exhibited at the Royal Academy on one occasion, and with the New Water-Colour Society and Royal Society of British Artists. The walls of the Dudley Gallery were so often hung with her art, and she participated, too, with women's art groups, such as the Society of Women Artists.
Whilst she kept pace with the galleries of London, Brace seems to have been based for most of her life in Brighton. Censuses have her living in the city and its surrounding areas, although for a time in the 1890s she is recorded as being in Reigate, on the edge of the capital. Perhaps she was staying there for a time, making it easier for her to exhibit in London. Whatever may be, Brace’s allegiance is strongly with the Brighton district and Sussex. She was a member of the Sussex Women’s Art Club and participated in exhibits within the city. Most oftentimes newspapers refer to her as a ‘Sussex’ artist, even when exhibiting in London.
Newspapers also make note of the accomplishments of her art. They are often praised as being ‘distinctly good.’ Indeed, it is easy to see why her choice of colours was considered ‘praiseworthy.’ Bright blooms are whipped up with a detailed, canny hand. Each petal plucked in creamy strokes of pink and purple, curling leaves rich in verdant vibrancy. Waxy grapes rest upon a table amongst mouth-watering fruits. There is a keen sense of composition and proportion and combined with a ‘bright and clever’ realism, Brace’s work is a sophisticated example of a still life.
Brace often painted flowers and still life. These were deemed more appropriate for women artists as a subject matter, and perhaps formed a large part of any arts education Brace might have received. She also painted, however, scenes from across Britain, suggesting some travels. From London to Gloucestershire, Brace captured scenes of ‘charming English scenery.’ She was also keen on cathedrals and their occupants. The tomb of Sir Francis Vere, set within Westminster Abbey, features, as does the chantry chapel tomb of Bishop Langtry in Winchester Cathedral.
Up until the very last years of her life, Eleanor Brace was continuing to exhibit her works and engage with the art world in Britain. Whilst time has dealt her a cruel blow, like so many other women artists, the works that remain are examples of the thriving passion to paint amongst women. Brace is a wonderful example of someone making a name for themselves, all from the talent of their own brush.
Born in Southwick, Hampshire.
Exhibited at The Corporation of Brighton ninth annual exhibition of modern pictures in oil. Awarded a National bronze medal.
Exhibited with the Society of Lady Artists.
Exhibited with the Art Union.
Exhibited frequently with the Old Dudley Art Society.
Exhibited at the Royal Society of British Artists.
Exhibited at the Royal Academy.
Exhibited at the Sussex Women’s Art Club. Exhibited at the Von Brakel Gallery.
Exhibited with the Society of Women Artists at the Suffolk Street Galleries.
Died in Hove, Brighton, Britain.