AFA Winter 2017

WINTERTHUR PRIMER N ew research on a needlework painting recently donated to Winterthur Museum has revealed it to be the work of the English artist and instructor Margaret Ansell, who displayed it at the 1776 Society of Artists exhibition in London. While one early twentieth-century writer described such needlework paintings as “freak pictures,” outside of the realm of art, Ansell’s needlework interpretations of two Benjamin West paintings, Penn’s Treaty with the Indians and The Death of General Wolfe , reveal how female artists participated in the debate over taste and materiality in late- eighteenth-century London. 1 Through ambitious interpretations of popular paintings, these women made their voices heard with layers of worsted wool threads. Winterthur’s needlework picture of Penn’s Treaty is rendered in dense, overlapping stitches of worsted wool yarn by an artist pushing the boundaries of her medium (Fig. 1). Under key figures, Freak Pictures? by LEA C. LANE The Needlework Paintings of Margaret Ansell 2017 Antiques & Fine Art 125 Fig. 1: Margaret Ansell (n.d.), Penn’s Treaty with the Indians, needlework picture, 1771–1776, Tottenham, Middlesex, England. Worsted wool, silk, linen. Winterthur Museum (2014.0029.005); Gift of Julie and the late Carl M. Lindberg. Photograph by James Schneck.