Lady Elizabeth Butler (1846-1933)
Scotland for Ever (1881) - Oil on canvas
Named after a battle cry, 'Scotland for Ever!' it is one of the most popular paintings created by Lady Elizabeth Butler, depicting the charge of the Royal North British Dragoons (The Scots Greys) at the Battle of Waterloo. The Greys were heard calling, 'Now, my boys, Scotland forever!' as they charged.
The popularity of 'Scotland Forever' became even more apparent during WWI when both the British and the Germans used the image for propaganda purposes.
From 1862 Lady Elizabeth Butler (Mimi) began her studies of art in Italy, then in 1866 she went to South Kensington, London where she enrolled at the Female School of Art. Moving to Florence in 1869 where she studied under Giuseppe Bellucci and attended the Accademia di Belle Arti. She often signed her works as Mimi Thompson.
Famous for her paintings of battle scenes, Lady Elizabeth Butler was a remarkable artist, being one of only a few 19th century women to acquire fame for their historic paintings.
Prior to her fame as a battle scene artists she had focussed on religious subjects, but in 1870 she was inspired by the works of Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier and Edouard Detaille, from then on she changed her focus to depicting heroic actions of soldiers of the ranks.
In her 1922 autobiography she wrote about her military paintings: "I never painted for the glory of war, but to portray its pathos and heroism."
Born at Villa Claremont in Lausanne, Switzerland, her other works include the Crimean War and the Battle of Waterloo, The Roll Call (purchased by Queen Victoria) and The Defence of Rorke's Drift.
Her marriage to the distinguished British Army Lieutenant-General Sir William Francis Butler GCB PC ADC - on 11 June 1877, resulted in six children, and a new era in her life as she travelled the British Empire. During their empire travels both she and her husband became influenced and of the belief that the empire rulers of Britain and Europe may not provide the most positive experience for those whose land they ruled over. Even so, she continued to paint scenes showing the valour of the ordinary British soldier.
Although she herself never witnessed war, she achieved more than any woman before or during her time in this field of art.
On her husband's retirement from the army, they moved to Bansha Castle, County Tipperary, Ireland.
During the Irish Civil War a collection of watercolours she had created from their time in Palestine were moved to Gormanston Castle for safe keeping, later they were moved to London. Ironically they were almost all destroyed during the WWII German Blitz of London.
She was widowed in 1910, passing away herself in 1933. Today her paintings are still adored by millions of people around the world.
Article By: Dave Roberts.
First Published: 31 March 2011.
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