Mary Linwood 1755-1845

Lion Emerging From A Cave' Embroidery, Mary Linwood

'Lion Emerging From A Cave' Embroidery, Mary Linwood. Part of the Leicester Arts & Museums Service collection

Mary Linwood was a celebrated needlework artist and during her lifetime she achieved international fame for her embroidered pictures which were copies of well-known paintings by artists such as Raphael, Rubens and Gainsborough. Her work was exhibited for over 36 years at a permanent exhibition in London at Savile House in Leicester Square and it was admired by many people, including British royalty. As her fame spread internationally she could include among her greatest admirers the Empress Catherine of Russia, the King of Poland and Napoleon, who bestowed the Freedom of Paris on her in 1803. Her pictures were embroidered using wool which was specially dyed for her in Leicester. She used a mixture of long and short stitches to resemble brush strokes and used silk thread for the highlights.

Born in Birmingham, she moved to Leicester as a child when her mother opened a private boarding school for young ladies at the Priory in Belgrave Gate. Sadly the building is now demolished but a Blue Plaque has been erected at 10 Belgrave Gate, close to the site of her former home. Mary herself ran the school for much of her working life. She was also a patron of the arts and it was she who encouraged the Leicester artist, John Flower. As well as exhibiting in London, other exhibitions of Mary’s work were held in Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and Dublin. She exhibited until her death, her last work being completed when she was 75. Examples of her work are in the collections of the V&A and at New Walk Museum & Art Gallery.

Detail of 'Lion Emerging From A Cave' showing the variety of stiches Mary Linwood used to create her pieces

Detail of 'Lion Emerging From A Cave' showing the variety of stiches Mary Linwood used to create her pieces

Mary Linwood died on 11th March 1845 and she is buried in St Margaret’s Church, Leicester where she had been a regular attendee. She is interred at the east end of the south aisle and nearby is a tribute which was erected by her friends and which praises her genius which “shed a lustre on her age, her country and her sex.”