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Joanna, George, and Henry


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Joanna, George and Henry tells the story of the intertwined lives of three young artists in the 1850s. When the transcript of the material on which this group portrait is based came to light ten years ago, no one could have imagined the drama within. They were family letters: letters from a young woman to her brother and later to her suitor - of interest chiefly because all three were painters, and all were active participants in the youthful Pre-Raphaelite revolution that swept England in the 1850s. They turned out to be a revelation - giving not only a comprehensive picture of what it was like to be an artist in the mid-19th century, but containing within them a powerful family drama and a most unusual love story. It is a love story, moreover, told largely from a woman's point of view.
Joanna Boyce's dedication to her art was absolute: she studied in Paris under Thomas Couture and had her first painting exhibited at the Academy when she was only 24. She was headstrong, self-critical, opinionated and teasing - "an artist with her pen as well as her brush". She died tragically young.
Between them, Joanna, her brother George and suitor Henry Wells knew all the artistic luminaries of the day, among them Ruskin, Millais and Rossetti (with whom George shared a great deal, including mistresses). They wrote to each other not just about art, but about their friends, their favourite books, their travels, their illnesses, their passions and their quarrels. In this book, they tell their story in their own vivid words - a story which portrays the age in which they lived and the powerful drama of their emotional and professional lives.

Sue Bradbury taught in Spain for three years before joining The Folio Society in 1973. She became Editorial Director in 1984, a post she held for twenty-five years. Her own publications include translations of Three Tragedies by Federico Garcia Lorca, a novel, Midnight Madonna, set in the Spanish Civil War, and a four-volume history of the world in contemporary accounts - Eyewitness to History - with Robert Fox. She was awarded the OBE in 2010.

Click here to hear an interview with the author and read an excerpt from the book


Offers new insights on life in a close-knit Victorian family as well as into the painter's profession in mid-19th-century Britain. Debra Mancoff, THE ART NEWSPAPER

Sue Bradbury [...] has done a superb job. CONTEMPORARY REVIEW

Ultimately, this is Joanna's story; with her passing, one obituarist wrote: "English art has lost more than it knows." Sue Bradbury, 152 years later, has finally remedied this oversight. THE CHURCH TIMES
A masterful group portrait of the lives of three Pre-Raphaelite artists that serves as a slice of social history. [This] wonderful book is compulsive reading, partly, of course, because Sue Bradbury has done full justice to some terrific and important material, but mostly because of Joanna Boyce herself. APOLLO

A welcome feature of the book is its many illustrations of unpublished works.. [...] For the art historian, the book contains a good deal of interest. THE BURLINGTON MAGAZINE

A richly contextualised account of one of the most intriguing artistic families in mid-Victorian Britain. [...] Thanks to this book [Joanna Boyce] deserves to find a new audience as not only a painter, but also a woman of wit and determination in a world weighted against her ambitions. COUNTRY LIFE

The light their correspondence shines on the more famous painters of the period is delightful. [...] Social history at its most fascinating. THE SPECTATOR

An enjoyable study of people and their lives and gives some interesting insights on the difficulties a woman faced as a professional painter in the nineteenth century. BIBLIOBUFFET.COM


First Published: 16 May 2012
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843836179
62 colour, 28 black and white illustrations
Pages: 376
Size: 24.4 x 17.2
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: Boydell Press
BIC Class: AG

Details updated on 05 Oct 2015

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