Lady Clara de Clare (Primary Title)
William D. Washington’s Lady Clara de Clare is inspired by Marmion, an 1808 epic poem by Sir Walter Scott set in the Court of Henry VIII. The richly detailed scene comes from the second canto in which Lady Clara, “young and fair,” escapes the nefarious designs of Marmion by taking refuge in the convent of Saint Hilda on the Island of Lindisfarne.
While the Gothic Revival subject matter may seem arcane for a Richmond-based painter, Scott’s courtly idylls of sentimental feudalism resonated with the southern planter class in the antebellum period. During and after the Civil War, the tales’ “twilight-of-a-nobility” theme and chivalric emphasis on the chastity and honor of women helped redefine patrician southern identity and loss. Mark Twain notes Scott’s “large hand in making southern character,” arguing “that he is in great measure responsible for the war.”
Marshall W. Fishwick, "William D. Washington: Virginia's First Artist in Residence," The Commonwealth (March 1952), pp. 14-15.
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