Her pictures are better known than those of many more pretentious painters. English millionaires buy the originals and the Anglo-Saxon bourgeoisie all over the globe purchase them in photogravure. — R. Jope Slade, Black and White Handbook to the Royal Academy, p. 23.
We’d do well to include the work of Maude Goodman, an eminent artist of her day, within any consideration of the achievements of Victorian female artists and Jewish artists. Her rise to success is a testament to tenacity and the determined pursuit of one’s passion in life.
Maude Goodman was born on the 10th of March 1853, in Manchester, England. Her given name was actually Matilda, and she was the firstborn to Jewish parents Louis and Amelia (née Franks). Sadly, her mother died of consumption on the fifth of December, roughly nine months after Matilda’s birth. Matilda was six years of age when her father married a second time. Another Jewish woman, Kate Abraham, who became Matilda’s stepmother and her greatest source of encouragement during her early stages as a student of art. In an interview with Henriette Corkran published in Girl’s Realm, Goodman recalled, “I was always scribbling faces and drawing trees on every scrap of paper I found in the house. One of my clearest recollections is my great delight in the possession of my first paint box. It cost me a penny. From that moment I spent most of my time brush in hand” (p.7).
Despite her a passion for art, her father opposed desire to attend an art school: “My father - one of the best and kindest of fathers - shared the prejudice many men of that day had, against their girls adopting art as a profession. It is, however, to my stepmother that I owe a debt of gratitude I can never repay. She sympathised with me, she encouraged me in every way” (p.8). With her stepmother’s encouragement and support Matilda eventually gained entrance to the National Art Training School in South Kensington (now the Royal College of Art). Her father’s opposition to formal study had much to do with the common practice of drawing from the live model, who was usually in the nude. But the Training School Matilda at which Goodman studied made special provisions for female students, allowing them to study separately from boys and precluding the use of nude models.
Suffering from frail health and the even more imposing limitations that Victorian society then placed on female students of art, Matilda worked extremely hard. Her hard work paid off in the form of scholarly prizes and as soon as she began to exhibit, her work received positive attention from all the right people. One such positive review early on in her career came from W. M. Rossetti himself, which appeared in The Academy of 1876. As Corkran put it, Maude Goodman’s career as an artist is “the story of the struggle for expression of a talent that could not be checked” (p. 10). Indeed, by 1901 her reputation had reached South Africa, Argentina, and Australia.
Barringer, Tim. Reading the Pre-Raphaelites.1999.
Catalogue of the Art Treasures of the United Kingdom Collected at Manchester in 1857. London: Whitefriars, Bradbury and Evans. Available on The internet Archive (archive.org).
Corkran, Henriette. Girl’s Realm.1901.
General Register Office (GRO), birth record of Matilda Goodman
General Register Office (GRO), death record of Amelia Goodman (Franks)
Graves, Algernon. The Royal Academy of Arts - A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and their work from its foundation in 1769 to 1904. London: Henry Graves and Co. Ltd and George Bell and Sons, 1905. (p. 270) Available on The internet Archive (archive.org).
Rossetti, William Michael. [Review]. 9 (April 29, 1876): 417.
Slade, R. Jope. Black and White Handbook to the Royal Academy, Biographies of Eminent Artists of the Day Not Members of the Royal Academy. London, 1893.
Last modified 7 October 2019