Tuesday, September 9, 2014



            Phoebe Anna Moss was born in Dublin County, Ireland in 1852. She attended the Royal Dublin Society art school where she met her future husband, Ramsay Heatley Traquair (1840-1912), a Scottish Professor of Zoology at the Royal College of Science for whom she did drawings of fossils. They married in 1873 in Ireland and moved in 1974 to Edinburgh, where he was made keeper of Natural History at the Museum of Science. She continued to work for her husband until his death in 1912. They had three children, Ramsay, Harry, and Hilda. (Ramsay became a professor of architecture at McGill University in Montreal, Harry became an opthalmologist in Edinburgh, and Hilda emigrated to British Columbia, Canada, where she continued her mother's interest in embroidery and where her collection of her mother's drawings now forms the Traquair section of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia.)
        While in Edinburgh Phoebe began to make art in many forms: manuscript illumination (Dante and Sonnets of the Portuguese), narrative embroideries (The Progress of the Soul), enamels, and mural painting. Her painting won her the widest recognition. Phoebe Traquair made two trips to Italy, in 1889 and in 1895, where she encountered many Renaissance frescoes and figurative paintings of Christian subjects with portraits and self-portraits, inspirations for some of her own work. In the same year that she begins the All Saints mural in England, 1920, she is awarded membership in the Royal Scottish Academy, an honor capping her distinguished career. She dies at age 84, August 4,1936, and is buried with her husband just outside Edinburgh in Colinton Parish Church graveyard under a gravestone of her own design.
 A chronological list of her major achievements is as follows:
* If time is limited, see starred works first.

ROYAL HOSPITAL for SICK CHILDREN-1885-1886;1896-1898
She painted walls of a small ward for sick & dying children; the room was originally in a different location and moved when they built the new hospital for children. Call ahead to reserve a time to see it because a nurse has to let you in.
           She painted murals on all four walls of saints, angels, choristers, and famous men and women in procession in the room where the choristers still practice. Go after a service to the coffee hour and ask sacristan to open the room.

*CATHOLIC APOSTOLIC CHURCH (Mansfield Place) -1893-1901
Amazing murals of Old and New Testament stories lining the nave walls, apse chapels, and altar and entrance walls of this building (no longer a church but a museum dedicated to Phoebe Traquair.) Call ahead because they only open on certain days. This is perhaps her greatest work, rightly called "the Sistine Chapel of Edinburgh." 



*NATIONAL GALLERY of SCOTLAND –Edinburgh Exquisite embroidery panels she made on the subject of THE PROGRESS of the SOUL - 1893-1902

Kellie Castle, Pittenweem, Anstruther, Fife, 1897 – Phoebe painted an oil mural on the second floor of the castle in the living-room (over the fireplace).  The subject is Spring, with beautiful women in flowing gowns moving through a flowered landscape.
St. Peter’s Church, Clayworth, North Retford, Nottinghamshire; here she painted murals of Christian subjects, c. 1904-5, restored 1999.

Chapel of St. Andrew, Cathedral of St. James, Chicago, 1912 - she painted an altarpiece with stories from the life of St. Andrew, still in situ but sent from Edinburgh originally. My deepest thanks to Piero Procaccini for photographing and filming this triptych:

Left wing:  St. Andrew and Christ with the lad who supplies the loaves and fishes (John 6:8)

Center: Calling of Peter and Andrew to be "fishers of men"

Right wing:  Crucifixion of St. Andrew

*All Saints Church, Thorney Hill, (near New Forest), Hampshire, England (3 hour drive from London). Phoebe painted the apse wall from 1920-22 (on left as you enter the church); Call ahead to get permission to see it; otherwise church is locked. Subject: Te Deum Laudamus, saints and angels praising God in heaven with Mary and Christ in center of group of portraits of real people, including the patron of the chapel (Lord John Manners) and Phoebe herself. The whole church is a memorial: to two children of the patron and patroness who died young and to the patroness, Lady Constance Manners, who died in the same year before the mural was begun; there is a marble inscription for the daughter, Mary Christine, who died in India at age 18; there is also a full-length bronze portrait of the son, John, who died in WWI.
The preparatory drawing in one blog entry is for a section of this mural.


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