Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Soyer, Elizabeth Emma

SOYER, ELIZABETH EMMA (1813–1842), painter, daughter of a Mr. Jones who died in 1818, was born in London in 1813, and was carefully instructed in French, Italian, and music. At a very early age she became a pupil of F. Simoneau the painter, who in 1820 married her mother, Mrs. Jones. Finding that Emma had talents for drawing, Simoneau ultimately devoted the whole of his time to her instruction, and before the age of twelve she had drawn more than a hundred portraits from life with surprising fidelity.

On 12 April 1837 she married Alexis Benoît Soyer [q. v.] the cook. She now turned her attention to portraits in oil, and, with her master, travelled in the provinces and gained great popularity. Upon her return to London she produced ‘The Blind Boy,’ ‘The Crossing Sweeper,’ ‘The Bavarians,’ ‘Taglioni and the Kentish Ceres.’ In 1842 she completed her last work, ‘The Two Organ Boys.’ On 29–30 Aug. 1842 she was prematurely confined owing to fright produced by a terrible thunderstorm, and she died the same night at her residence near Charing Cross, London. She was buried at Kensal Green on 8 Sept., where her husband erected a sumptuous monument to her memory.

Between 1823 and 1843 fourteen of her pictures were exhibited at the Royal Academy, thirty-eight at the British Institution, and fourteen at the Suffolk Street Gallery (Graves, Dictionary of Artists, pp. 130, 221).

In June 1848 one hundred and forty of her works were exhibited at the Prince of Wales's bazaar, under the name of Soyer's Philanthropic Gallery, on behalf of the Spitalfields soup kitchen, and a catalogue was printed. Among these pictures was ‘The Young Savoyards Resting,’ a work which obtained for Madame Soyer the name of the ‘English Murillo.’ Two of her pieces, ‘The Jew Lemon Boys’ and ‘The English Ceres,’ were engraved by Gérard. In Paris, where many of her pictures were exhibited, her reputation stood higher than in her native country.

[Redgrave's Dictionary of Artists, 1878, p. 241; Volant and Warren's Memoirs of A. Soyer, 1858, pp. 10, 27, 36, 81, 128, 136, 166, 276; Grinsted's Last Homes of Departed Genius, 1867, p. 291; Dodd's Annual Biography, 1843, p. 447; Gent. Mag. 1842, ii. 441; Morning Post, 2 Sept. 1842, p. 4.]

G. C. B.