Picturing the Future: The Feminist Orientation of Portraiture in The Ebony Frame and an Example of Victorian Spirit Art, Cathy Jewison
As a visible expression of Victorian culture, portraiture reflected the many and varied interests of the era, including a preoccupation with death and a possible afterlife, and the growing debate regarding the role of
women in society. Portraits often featured in period ghost stories, and also made an appearance in spiritualist art. The ghost story and spiritualism have each been interpreted as a means of linking the Victorian present to its quickly receding past. A comparison of two contrasting portraits, one described in ‘The Ebony Frame’, a ghost story by Edith Nesbit, the other an image drawn by artist-medium Anna Mary Howitt Watts,
challenges this perspective. Both demonstrate a feminist orientation that looks forward, rather than backward, envisioning a progressive future rather than a nostalgic past.