Marie Seymour Lucas

British, b.1850, d.1921

The Tyrant

  • 1887
  • Oil on canvas
  • Presented by the Canterbury Society of Arts, 1932
  • 570 x 460 x 55mm
  • 69/567

The evident discomfort of Marie Seymour Lucas’s unflinching young sitter encourages the viewer to ask who the “Tyrant” of the work’s title was, and what was this particular artist-model relationship? Had this been a sitting filled with pouting and tantrums, thereby an almost impossible task for the painter? Or was the tormenter referred to in truth the painter, expecting unreasonable compliance from the overdressed child? Marie Seymour Lucas (née Cornelissen) was born in Paris and studied there, in Germany and in London, where in 1877 she began showing her work and was married to the painter John Seymour Lucas. (Their daughter, born 1879, is probably not this painting’s subject.) The Tyrant was exhibited in London in the 1887 Royal Academy summer show and then in 1888 with the Canterbury Society of Arts; one of five works chosen by Academy president Frederic Leighton as worthy examples of painting for students of art in Christchurch.

(Persistent Encounters, March 2020)

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • It is possible that the young child in this work was Marie Lucas' own daughter and the choice of title tells its own domestic story. Like many Victorian women artists, Lucas tended to focus on domestic scenes and portraits of children. Her somewhat sentimental work was popular and she received many commissions. Painted in an academic manner concerned with attention to detail, The Tyrant was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1887. It was one of five works selected for the Canterbury Society of Arts as being good models of British art for students in Christchurch to study. Born Marie Cornelisson, in Paris, Lucas studied in Paris as well as at the Royal Academy Schools in London and Germany. She married the painter and fellow student, John Seymour Lucas. Based in London throughout her career, Lucas began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1877 and continued to do so until 1913. She also exhibited with the Royal Society of British Artists and the New Watercolour Society.

    (Gallery opening hang, 2003)