Adelaide Ironside


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(1831–67), born Sydney, was well known in the city's cultural circles and familiar with such figures as John Dunmore Lang, Sir Charles Nicholson and Daniel Deniehy. She studied literature and art as well as languages and contributed articles and verse on republican topics to such journals as the People's Advocate and New South Wales Vindicator, before leaving for London in 1855. Attracted to Deniehy, she is said to have refused many brilliant offers of marriage and continued to correspond with him until his death. In January 1856 she and her mother, who appears to have acted as entrepreneur of her daughter's talents, settled in Rome, where she became known as a painter and in spiritualist circles as a medium. Many of her paintings were on religious subjects or represented her visions as a medium; the most famous included ‘The Pilgrim of Art’ and ‘The Marriage in Cana’, which expresses her republicanism by modelling the heads of Christ and the bridegroom on Garibaldi. While in Rome she was granted an audience with the Pope and became a member of the exclusive Society of Artists with access to the Pope's private gallery. In 1865 she lived in London, where she became friendly with John Ruskin, who advised her on her drawing. She appears to have won some success as an artist, receiving visits from the Prince of Wales and W. Wentworth, who bought paintings, and winning respect from other artists such as Joseph Severn, Seymour Kirkup and John Gibson. Her death in Rome inspired several eulogies including a poem by Brunton Stephens, although her painting failed to attract continuing attention. Jill Poulton has written a biography of Adelaide Ironside (1987).

From The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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