Louisa Anne Beresford, Marchioness of Waterford (née Stuart) (1818-1891)
Though largely untutored, Louisa Anne Beresford, Marchioness of Waterford, became one of the best-known amateur painters of her time. Working mainly in watercolour, she produced images that, ranging in mood and scale, reflected her interests in religion and philanthropy. She was influenced by artists of the Italian Renaissance, and encouraged by John Ruskin and members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The Honourable Louisa Stuart was born at the Hôtel de Charost, Paris, on 14 April 1818, the daughter of Sir Charles Stuart, the Ambassador to the French Royal Court, and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Margaret (née Yorke), daughter of the 3rd Earl of Hardwicke.
Sir Charles was recalled from Paris in 1824, and settled with his family at Bure, in Hampshire (now in Dorset), on the remaining portion of Highcliffe, the estate developed by his grandfather, the 3rd Earl of Bute. However, in 1828, he was created Lord Stuart de Rothesay, and again appointed Ambassador to Paris, serving office until the 1830 Revolution. The family then shared their time between their Hampshire estate, much of which had been repurchased and restored, and their London home, at 4 Carlton House Terrace.
Launched into society, Louisa and her elder sister, Charlotte, were noted as beauties, and so became much feted and much painted. Portraits of her include those by George Hayter (with her mother and sister, 1830, Government Art Collection) and Francis Grant (1859-60, National Portrait Gallery).
Louisa was described by a contemporary as ‘perfectly devoted to her paint box at ten years old’ (see Joicey and Nunn, 1983, page 28). She had occasional teachers, including a Mr Shepherdson and a Mr Page, but, in the main, she taught herself to paint by copying prints and family portraits, and by making studies from nature. Though she made some use of oils at an early age, she worked mostly in watercolour. A long visit with her parents to Rome and Naples, in the winter of 1836, broadened her horizons and decisively affected her artistic development; for she not only copied the work of old masters, but emulated their emphasis on mythological and religious subjects.
In 1839, Louisa met her future husband, Henry de la Poer Beresford, 3rd Marquess of Waterford, while attending the Eglinton Tournament, in Scotland, with her mother. They married at the Royal Chapel, Whitehall, on 8 June 1842, and then divided their time between Curraghmore, in Ireland, and Ford Castle, Northumberland. The Marquess tempered his formerly notorious sporting life in order to satisfy his bride. His notable generosity enabled her to fulfil her deep religious principles in a life of service. His encouragement helped her in the improvement of her art. Thus she was desolated when, in March 1859, he was killed in a hunting accident.
Following her husband’s death, Louisa based herself at Ford, where she continued her work, and from where she occasionally went abroad. From the early 1850s, she had been acknowledged by leading figures in the art world. John Ruskin had encouraged her to seek tuition, while Pre-Raphaelite painters invited her to join a sketching club. Now she fulfilled her earlier promise. She decorated the village school, which she had built at Ford, with murals depicting the Lives of Good Children of the Bible (1862-83). In 1867, she inherited Highcliffe, and from then on divided her time between the two properties.
From the late 1870s, Louisa also exhibited her work in London, at the Grosvenor Gallery, the Dudley Gallery and the Society of Women Artists. As a result, she became one of the best-known amateurs of her time, befriended by Edward Burne-Jones and George Frederick Watts, and admired for her strong imagination, her mastery of composition and her use of rich Venetian colouring.
Following her death at Ford on 12 May 1891, retrospectives of her work were mounted in Ford itself (1891, 1892) and at Carlton House Terrace (1910).
Her work is represented in the collections of the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, Tate and the V&A; and The Fitzwilliam Museum (Cambridge).
Further reading: Augustus Hare, The Story of Two Noble Lives, being memorials of Charlotte, Countess Canning, and Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, London: George Allen, 1893 (3 vols); Michael Joicey and Pamela Gerrish Nunn, Lady Waterford Centenary Exhibition, Ford: Lady Waterford Hall, 1983; Charles Stuart, Short Sketch of the Life of Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, London: printed by Spottiswoode, 1892; Virginia Surtees, Sublime & Instructive. Letters from John Ruskin to Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, Anna Blunden and Ellen Heaton, London: Michael Joseph, 1972; Charlotte Yeldham, ‘Beresford [née Stuart], Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford (1818–1891)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, https://doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/45749