Emily Farmer (1826–1905)

Emily Chambers

Gentle Critics


Signed and dated l.r.: Emily Farmer 1872, watercolour over traces of pencil heightened
with bodycolour and gum arabic

50.7 x 36.8 cm; 20 x 14½ inches

Exhibited: Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colour, 1872

Emily Farmer exhibited over one hundred works at the New Society of Painters in Water Colours during her lifetime, achieving good notices from contemporary critics, but her work has fallen from public view, like that of many other women artists.

Emily was the daughter of John Biker Farmer who worked for the East India Company and his wife Frances Ann (née Frost). She was home educated and was taught art by her brother Alexander Farmer, the genre painter.

Farmer’s early work was in miniature and she exhibited twice at the Royal Academy in 1847 and 1849 but from 1850 she began to concentrate on genre painting and developed her particular love of painting children. Her most famous work Deceiving Granny,1860,
was very popular with the contemporary public and frequently reproduced in different media.

Farmer was elected to the New Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1854, the tenth female member of the Society added to the original membership of fifty-seven artists, the other nine being Fanny and Louisa Corbaux, Jane Egerton, Fanny Harris, Mary Margetts,
Emma Oliver, Sarah Setchell and Fanny Steers. She exhibited nearly one hundred works there, including the present watercolour, over the course of her artistic career.

Pamela Nunn observes that although there was not much women’s work exhibited at the New Society's exhibitions it was often regarded as the most interesting.1 Farmer was singled out for special mention by contemporary critics:

…Miss Farmer's pictures, which are, all things considered, the best figure pieces in the collection. They are true in gesture and expression, conscientious in execution and harmonious in colour
Spectator, May 3, 1862, p. 495.

Miss Farmer is the only figure artist (here) whose drawings give any hope or promise…
ibid, April 28, 1866, p. 467.

1. P. Nunn, ‘The Mid Victorian women Artists 1850–1879’, 1982, PhD thesis