Marian Collier (née Huxley) by John Collier

Marian, the daughter of Thomas Huxley, was an artist who shared a studio in Tite Street with her husband, but after the birth of the couple's first child she suffered from acute postpartum depression and for months wouldn't leave her bed, eat, or drink. She began to improve and during a temporary recovery returned to the couple’s shared studio, where they painted portraits of each other (her portrait of her husband is in the National Portrait Gallery NPG 6811).

The sitter married fellow artist John Collier in 1879 and this is the second of two recorded oil portraits by him, showing Marion as a fashionable young wife. In his Sitters Book, it is listed as ‘Marion Collier, standing’ under 1883 (as with the signature) and also as having been exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1882 (as indeed it was). This inconsistency suggests that the canvas was re-worked, an inference supported by the fact that the signature and the flowers, which overlie the dress, are later additions.

It seems likely that this work was painted while the artist was sitting to his wife for her large portrait of him (NPG 6811), presumably at the start of that endeavour. Intriguingly, however, while Marion’s portrait of John shows a reversed image on his easel which is similar in format to the present work, it depicts a left profile and ruffled lace collar. Was that Marion’s invention, or John’s original concept for this portrait?
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