Mary Linwood, a portrait of an embroidery portraitist

If you caught Jane Austen and Co.'s lecture on crafting with Jennie Batchelor, you heard her mention a woman named Mary Linwood. But just who was she?


Mary Linwood was born in Birmingham, England, in 1755, making her Jane Austen's senior by 20 years. Linwood's mother ran a school for young girls, not unlike the Austen family’s school for young boys, and in time, Linwood took over the school herself. Yet, she is most known for being an accomplished embroidery artist.


Hanging partridge, after a painting by Moses Haughton the elder, By Mary Linwood

At a time when most embroidery appeared on apparel or home good items, Linwood would copy great masterpieces (often full scale) or create portraits with a needle and thread. Her medium of choice was crewel, or worsted, embroidery (which means wool). It gave the illusion of brushstrokes, although she would often incorporate silk and other materials into her art. She caught the attention and admiration from the crowned heads of Europe as well as Catherine the Great. Over the years, she held many exhibits as the technology to view them changed and gas lamps began to illuminate her pieces.


She died in1845 at age 90 from the flu. After her death, her works were auctioned off at a fraction of what she had been offered during her lifetime.


To learn more about her life, go here and here.


To see a collection of her work, go here and here.


Winner of the North Carolina Humanities Council’s Joel Gradin Award for Excellence in Public Humanities

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