Isobel Lilian Gloag (British painter, illustrator and stained glass window designer) 1865 - 1917
A Legend of Provence, s.d.
oil on canvas
72 x 54.3 in. (183 x 138 cm.)
The Mary Magdalen of medieval legend was a composite figure who had her origins in the Biblical passages about three different women - not just the woman explicitly called Mary Magdalen in the Gospels, but also Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus, and the unnamed female sinner who washed Christ's feet with her tears. Biblical exegetes in the Latin West tended to equate the three from the time of Gregory the Great on, but the various New Testament passages about these women were first woven into a single narrative vita in a tenth-century sermon attributed to Odo of Cluny. Odo's sermon, which was subsequently used as a source of lessons in the liturgy for Mary Magdalen's feast day (July 22), relates her life up to the time of Christ's Ascension. The post-Ascension portion of the legend developed in a great variety of ways, but the dominant version in the West was clearly the one that claimed that she journeyed to Provence in a rudderless boat, had a successful career as an apostle in Marseilles and Aix-en-Provence, and then spent thirty years alone in the wilderness nearby as a contemplative hermit.
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Isobel Lilian Gloag was born in London in 1865 of Scottish parents from Perthshire. She studied at St John's Wood Art School, the Slade and then in the studio of M.W.Ridley. She attended life class at South Kensington before travelling to Paris to study under Raphael Collin. Returning to London, she took a studio in Notting Hill, exhibiting at the Royal Academy from 1893 onwards. Her first exhibit at the Royal Academy was entitled A Raw Recruit. As well as painting romantic subject pictures reminiscent of Byam Shaw and Gerald Moira, she also was a consummate portraitist, illustrator and stained glass window designer. She also designed posters and produced flower paintings. She was elected ROI in 1909, and after a life plagued by ill health, died on the 5th of January 1917. An article in the Magazine of Art 1902 (pp289-292) by James Greig, comments upon her paintings and illustrates seven (all in black and white) including such titles as 'Rosamond', 'The Miracle of the Roses', 'Rapunzel' and 'The Magic Mantle'. More titles are listed in Christopher Wood's Dictionary of Victorian Painters ('The Choice', 'Bacchante', 'A Legend of Provence'), whilst Simon Houfe's Dictionary of 19th Century British Book Illustrators lists her known graphic works.