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Moser [married name Lloyd], Maryfree

(1744–1819)
  • Wendy Wassyng Roworth

Mary Moser (1744–1819), by George Romney, 1770-71

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Moser [married name Lloyd], Mary (1744–1819), flower painter, was born in London on 27 October 1744, the only surviving child of George Michael Moser (1706–1783), a gold-chaser and painter in enamels who emigrated to England from Schaffhausen, Switzerland, and Mary (1709/10–1782), the daughter of the painter Claude Guynier of Grenoble. Mary Moser trained with her father, and in 1758 at the age of fourteen she won a prize of £5 in the category of drawings of ornament for girls under eighteen from the Society for the Encouragement of Art, Manufacture, and Commerce. In the following year she was awarded a silver medal by the same body in the category of polite arts for a painting of flowers. After 1760 Moser exhibited with the Society of Artists until 1768, when she and her father were elected as founding members of the Royal Academy of Art, and George Michael Moser became the first keeper of the academy [see Founders of the Royal Academy of Arts]. Mary Moser and Angelica Kauffman were the only women among the thirty-six founding members. Though considered full academicians they were not expected to attend meetings; however, both participated in votes for annual prizes and the election of new members by sending their ballots to the president. In her later years Moser attended some of the meetings in person.

Moser was one of two founding members designated as flower painters. A tempera painting on paper (1764) of a vase filled with a variety of flowers (V&A) provides evidence of her skill in this genre. She produced botanically accurate studies of individual flowers, such as the seven watercolours of tulips in the Victoria and Albert Museum, in addition to paintings of elaborate arrangements of flowers, some of which were intended to convey symbolic meaning. Six of her pictures in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, represent the signs of the zodiac as still lifes of flowers appropriate to the seasons displayed in vases decorated with astrological symbols. According to Joseph Farington, Queen Charlotte employed Moser as drawing mistress for the royal princesses.

In a self-portrait (c.1780; Schaffhausen, Switzerland) Moser represented herself at work on a still-life painting of fruit. She holds her brush poised over the canvas while looking over her shoulder at the viewer. Though Moser gained recognition and the patronage of Queen Charlotte for her flower paintings in oil, watercolour, and gouache, the thirty-six pictures she exhibited at the Royal Academy also included literary and classical subjects, such as Venus and Cupid (1776), Theseus Finding his Father's Sword and Sandals from Plutarch (1783), and Cymon and Iphegenia from Dryden's poem (1789).

Moser's best-known and most elaborate work was the decorative programme made for Queen Charlotte at Frogmore House, Windsor, between 1792 and 1795. According to Joseph Nollekens, Moser received the large sum of £900 for this commission. Designed to simulate a conservatory open to the sky, the room was ornamented with flowers painted in oil directly on the walls as well as large inset canvases (oil) that created the illusion of intricate flower garlands cascading from large stone planters and suspended overhead.

Moser is described as cheerful and intelligent, and her letters reveal an amiable disposition. She had numerous friends, including her fellow artists Benjamin West and Joseph Nollekens and their wives, Richard Cosway, and Maria Hadfield Cosway. In her youth Moser was said to have been infatuated with the artist Henry Fuseli; her letters to him and others contain witty observations about artists, art exhibitions, current fashions, and mutual friends. Moser remained single until 26 October 1793, when she married Captain Hugh Lloyd, a widower. She continued to paint as Mary Lloyd or Mrs Lloyd until 1802, when increasing near-sightedness made work too difficult. Moser died on 2 May 1819 at her home, 21 Upper Thornhaugh Street, London, and was buried eight days later in Kensington, London, beside her husband, who had predeceased her by many years. Her will (1801) shows that she had considerable wealth and was able to provide for several of her female friends and relatives.

Sources

  • J. T. Smith, Nollekens and his times, 2nd edn, 2 vols. (1829)
  • E. C. Clayton, English female artists, 2 vols. (1876)
  • M. Pointon, ‘Working, earning, bequeathing: Mary Grace and Mary Moser’, Strategies for showing: women, possession, and representation in English visual culture, 1665–1800 (1997), 131–71
  • ‘…ihr werten Frauenzimmer, auf!’, Malerinnen der Aufklärung (1993), 91–2 [exhibition catalogue, Roselius-Haus, Bremen, Germany, 1993]
  • M. Zweig, ‘Mary Moser’, The Connoisseur Yearbook (1956), 104–10
  • D. Gaze, ed., Dictionary of women artists, 2 vols. (1997)
  • S. C. Hutchison, The history of the Royal Academy, 1768–1986, 2nd edn (1986)
  • Women's art show, 1550–1970 (1982), 45 [exhibition catalogue, Nottingham Castle Museum]
  • The collected English letters of Henry Fuseli, ed. D. H. Weinglass (1982)

Archives

  • priv. coll., MSS letters

Likenesses

  • G. Romney, oils, 1770–1771, NPG[see illus.]
  • J. Zoffany, group portrait, oils, 1771–2 (The Academicians of the Royal Academy), Royal Collection
  • M. Moser, self-portrait, oils, 1780, Museum zu Allerheiligen, Sturzenegger-Stiftung, A-1669 Schaffhausen, Switzerland
  • H. Singleton, group portrait, oils, 1795 (The Royal Academicians in general assembly), RA
  • G. Bestland, portrait, 1802 (after H. Singleton), BM

Wealth at Death

unspecified sum in Long Annuities; £7000 as beneficiary of her cousin Joseph Moser's will; bequests in excess of £1200 to friends and family; also bequeathed a silver tea set, jewellery, drawings, prints, and books of prints: will, 1801, TNA: PRO, PROB 11/1617, sig. 283, cited in Pointon, ‘Working’, n. 40; Smith, Nollekens

A. Graves, , 8 vols. (1905–6), repr. (1970), repr. (1972)