|Description: An oil portrait of a middle aged woman (Lucy Harris) in an ornate gesso, wood and gold painted frame. The woman is wearing a dark dress and hat with a white lace collar and white plumes on the hat. The background is also a dark colour. The painting is signed by the artist in the lower left corner with a date, “Fanny Sutherland, 1881”. |
History: Lucy (1844-1925), the daughter of Captain James B. Harris (1797-1884) and Elizabeth Harris (née Molony) (1829-1884), and sister of Arthur, lived at Benares until an inheritance in 1880 allowed her to move to Toronto. Lucy’s influence is felt strongly at Benares Historic House, as many of the artifacts originally came from the home she shared with her sister, Bessie, at 71 St. George Street, and later 584 Huron Street, in Toronto. Lucy loved antiques and bought many things at auction such as the Tall- Boy Cabinet, Pembroke Table (painted table), fold- out card table (inlaid), Davenport writing desk and tea caddy, which have been in the Drawing Room of Benares, along with her portrait, since her death in 1925.
This portrait was painted in 1881 by Fanny Sutherland (1833-ca.1906). Fanny was the sister of Christiana Sutherland Magrath (1831-1860), Mary Harris’s mother. She was an accomplished artist well known for her portraits and court scenes. Fanny was a member of both the Royal Canadian Academy and Royal Academy in London.
Fanny was Captain Edward Sutherland’s (1796-1885) fourth daughter and perhaps the most talented of all his children. Captain Sutherland married Christiana Coffin in 1826 and they had seven children. After the death of his wife in 1852, Captain Sutherland settled in Clarkson with the family in 1856. He purchased ‘Bush’s Inn’, a former inn and coach house, and renamed it ‘Woodburn’. It was here that Edward became the first to introduce both strawberry and raspberry cultivation in the area. Edward was an accomplished artist and became a member of the Ontario Society of Artists (1872-75) and exhibited with this society in 1873. His works have been described in J. Russell Harper “Early Painters and Engravers in Canada” (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970), 301.
Fanny Sutherland moved to England during the 1880s to pursue formal training in art. She was a member of the Royal Academy in London, England, beginning in 1882; and became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy from 1885-1889. Many of her paintings were exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and she continued to paint under her maiden name until she married Dr. Edward Chapman. In 1903, her great-niece Annie Harris (1882-1986) from Benares visited her in England. Fanny died around 1906.
For information in the Sutherland family, see: Malcolm Sutherland, "A Fighting Clan: Sutherland Officers: 1250-1850” (London, Avon Books: 1996); Museums of Mississauga, “A Family of Artists: Generations of Art by Descendants of the Sutherland Family, An Exhibit 26 January to 6 April” (Mississauga, Museums of Mississauga, 2002).