Art and Design KS3: War Artist Lady Elizabeth Butler

Historian Amanda Vickery explains that only a few women in the 18th and 19th centuries were accepted as artists.

The Female School of Design was set up in the middle of the 19th Century to train female artists - a breakthrough after centuries of women not being taken seriously - but after six years the school was moved to the Strand, a rougher area well known for prostitution and crime, reflecting just how little female artists were valued.

Lady Elizabeth Butler (1846-1933) became the most successful war artist of her time despite war being seen as the most masculine of subjects.

Sketches made when Elizabeth was just 14 show she was already interested in soldiers and cavalry charges.

In 1874, Lady Butler submitted a painting called "Calling the Roll after an Engagement in the Crimea" to the Royal Academy.

It was exhibited to enormous popularity and eventually bought by Queen Victoria.

The painting is unusual because it shows, not heroism and battle, but the strain on injured soldiers as they re-group.

Lady Butler organised scenes to be re-enacted because she could not visit the battlefield herself.

Before painting "Scotland Forever" (1881), she saw a cavalry charge twice.

This clip is from the series The Britain That Women Made.

Teacher Notes

This could be used in lessons on relevant key historical concepts such as change and continuity and causation, or relevant historical periods like the Industrial Revolution, and the social, political and economic changes of the 18th century.

Students could be encouraged to discuss the barriers women faced as artists.

What were the factors which helped Lady Butler become successful?

In their answers students could consider the importance of her determination, her education, the role of the Royal Academy, the role of the Female School of Design and the type of art people wanted to see.

Which of these factors was most important in her success?

Curriculum Notes

This clip is suitable for teaching Art and Design and History at Key Stage 3 and Third Level.