Artist Jessica Bartram first showed her watercolour portraits of Notable Victorians (all of whom happened to be animals) at Industrees Gallery (now defunct) last year. She is currently creating portraits of a fresh set of characters and searching for a new gallery, but she kindly contributed a few designs of ascot-wearing lions for WORN’s Pin Party. Whether they are members of high society or the Dickensian fishmongers, chimney sweeps or strumpets of the streets, her characters are always fabulously dressed.
Clothing and props play a significant role in the establishment of character in your work. Do you get as much inspiration from hats, ties and monocles as you do from animals?
Yes, I’m most definitely attracted to the ornate and slightly mad elements of Victorian fashion – the crazy hats adorned with whole taxidermied birds, the mammoth sleeves, bustles. It’s a rich field from which to harvest all kinds of inspiration! I’m always trolling Flickr, Google images, and Tumblr old photos to use as reference, and it’s inevitably the crazier outfits that catch my eye. There’s a printout on my bulletin board of a portrait of a lady wearing a striped silk dress (with a tightly cinched waist sash and enormous mutton-leg sleeves) and a heavily feathered hat – she’s probably my next dress reference.