Panoramic Landscapes 1873–1889: Emily Bruce
Emily Bruce (b.1838) was daughter of West India Company merchant Henry Bruce (1798–1864) and in 1873 resided at the prestigious London address 28 Hyde Park Square. This collection of works attests to Emily Bruce’s wealth and privilege, following her travels in the UK and on the Continent. Bruce's choice of panoramic format for all her landscapes–whether home or abroad–gives a sense of the expansive nature of landscape, further enhanced by striated application of colour, and a subtle, graduated palette of greens, browns, ochres, greys, blues and pinky-purples.
Bruce's British subjects take in rural landscapes predominantly in Scotland, Wiltshire and Hampshire. In 1885 she made home for the summer at Manton Grange, near Marlborough (a square red-brick farmhouse of around 1800), where she painted the surrounding views on the Kennet River and at Savernake Forest. There is also a note that she stayed at Savernake Forest Hotel, purpose built by the Marquis of Ailesbury in about 1864, whose nearby seat was Tottenham Park. It is perhaps no coincidence that the family name of the Marquis was Brudenell-Bruce—possibly a relation of the artist herself.
In Hampshire her views are focused around Blackmoor, where the construction of the church, vicarage, school and cottages was commissioned by the first Earl of Selborne in the 1860s, since described as 'a textbook example of a Victorian estate village'.
In the 1870s Emily Bruce travels to Switzerland, painting and recording sites which were popular amongst upper class travellers of the Victorian era. A number of views are from the spectacular vantage point of the Grand Axenstein Hotel, which opened in 1869 and was famously declared by Queen Victoria ‘The most beautiful spot I met with on my journey through Switzerland.’ But her paintings also show an eye sensitive to pictorial composition and the sublime, her pictures capturing the rugged and uninhabited beauty of Switzerland’s lake and mountain regions.