'A Record in Jealousy'

Newspaper clipping with image of painting of Louise Breslau by Ernst Josephson
Part of the Irish Archives

Scandinavian Connection

In August 1935, the Irish painter, Sarah Purser, received this postcard offering high praise for Ernst Josephson’s portrait of Breslau, housed in the National Museum in Stockholm, and pictured on the postcard cover. The unidentified correspondent writes 'What a good painter your friend Josephson was & what a good portrait of him painted by Mde Breslau is in the National Gallery here.' Breslau in turn painted a portrait of Josephson and both portraits still reside in the National Museum.

'A Record in Jealousy'

Elsewhere in the Purser collection is an intriguingly salacious newspaper cutting dating from November 1926, in which the seemingly troubled relationship between Breslau and the Russian diarist Marie Bashkirtseff is documented by the John O’London’s Weekly literary newspaper. It appears that a deep-rooted envy had taken hold of Bashkirtseff whilst she and Breslau were students at the Academie Julian. Unable to match Breslau in talent or social favour, Bashkirtseff inscribed her loathing each day into her personal diaries. Purser biographers have in fact claimed that the Irishwoman attempted to broker peace between the two artists, although this seems to have been unsuccessful. Bashkirtseff died tragically young, at the age of 25, never seeming to have reconciled with Breslau. Her multi-volume diaries remain a source of immense literary and historical interest.

A re-appraisal of those who are admitted to the pantheon of 19th-century European artists is a welcome endeavour given how few female artists are traditionally represented. Re-engaging with archival sources to draw out new and alternative narratives of the period affords a rich research opportunity, and an occasion to meet such formidable women as Breslau, Purser, and Bashkirtseff.

More information is available about Purser and Breslau in the Source Story Her Oldest and Most Faithful Friend.


Further reading

John N. O'Grady (2009). Purser, Sarah Henrietta. In James McGuire, James Quinn (ed.), Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

William Hauptman, exhibition review of “Louise Breslau: De l’impressionnisme aux années folles, exhibition and catalogueNineteenth-Century Art Worldwide 1, no. 1 (Spring 2002), (accessed February 3, 2021).