Anne Seymour Damer (1748–1828) was virtually the only female sculptor working in Britain during her lifetime. Contemporary artists may have dismissed her as a well-connected dilettante with curiosity value as a woman. But her most important connection was her uncle, Horace Walpole. He warmly praised his niece’s abilities: her terracotta ‘Shock Dog’ of 1780 (see above) he compared to a work by Bernini. On his death, he bequeathed her his country retreat, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham.
This house is a fitting venue for Anne Seymour Damer – Sculpture and Society (until 9 November). The items are distributed round the house: her sculpted works are of high quality and range from animals to portrait busts, including one of Princess Caroline of Brunswick, wife of the Prince Regent. These are displayed in the recently restored Round Room. The Pantry includes a selection of portraits and annotated play-scripts, as she was a keen amateur actress. Not to be missed is a splendid portrait by Daniel Gardner, in the Museum Room, of Damer, Viscountess Melbourne, and Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire as ‘The Three Witches of Macbeth’. A very informative catalogue costs £4.99.
This exhibition complements a visit to Strawberry Hill (and is free with entrance), a building long hailed as the pioneer of Gothic Revival and open to the public since October 2010 through the efforts of the Strawberry Hill Trust and generous benefactions.