Into the Light: Marianne Stokes, a major woman artist

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), Slovak Girl in Sunday Attire (1909), other details not known. Wikimedia Commons.

Marianne Preindlsberger (1855-1927), better known under her married name of Marianne Stokes, was an accomplished painter before she met her husband Adrian Stokes, covered in the previous article.

She was born in Graz, Austria, and in about 1870 studied at the Graz Drawing Academy, before moving to Munich in 1874 to study painting under Gabriel von Hackl, Otto Seitz, and others. She appears to have met Johann Strauss, who dedicated a polka-mazurka, Licht und Schatten (Light and Shadow), to her in 1875.

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), Sweet Dreams (1875), oil on canvas, 100 × 82 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

Sweet Dreams (1875) is a good example of her early paintings, and makes Strauss’s point too: light and shadow indeed.

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), The Milk Pot (before 1884), oil on panel, 30 x 22 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

In The Milk Pot (before 1884) her style has become considerably more painterly, away from the face and hands of this little child.

In 1880, she moved to Paris, where she attended several academies, including the Académie Colarossi, where she won a silver medal in 1882. She painted mainly landscapes and rustic genre scenes, under the influence of Jules Bastien-Lepage, but slowly her interests changed to mediaeval romantic and religious themes.

In 1881, she made friends with the Finnish painter Helene Schjerfbeck, and went with her to the artists’ colony at Pont-Aven in Brittany, in 1883. There she met Adrian Stokes. Later that year she had her first painting accepted for the Salon. The following year, she married Adrian Stokes in Graz, later travelling and staying for several months in Capri.

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), Homeless (On the Way to the Fields) (1885), oil on board, 55 × 38 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

Homeless (On the Way to the Fields) (1885) is an example of her rural naturalism, under the influence of Bastien-Lepage and Millet, at this time in her career. It parallels the rural paintings of George Clausen at that time.

The Stokeses spent the summer seasons with the group of Danish Impressionists at Skagen in Denmark, in 1885 and 1886, where they became close friends of the Anchers. In 1885, she had her first painting accepted for exhibition at the Royal Academy in London.

They returned to England in 1886, where they became early members of the New English Art Club in 1887, and travelled to Italy. They settled near St Ives in Cornwall in 1887, where they became active members of its developing artists’ colony, Marianne being a member of the Newlyn School.

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927) The Frog Prince (c 1890), other details not known. Wikimedia Commons.

During the late 1880s she moved on from rural naturalism, as shown in her The Frog Prince (c 1890), which is taken from the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of a frog who tranforms into a prince.

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927) In the Meadow (In a Field of Buttercups) (c 1890), oil on canvas, 35.5 × 47 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

For a while, she also painted in Impressionist style, as seen in her In the Meadow (In a Field of Buttercups) (c 1890).

In 1890, she exhibited in Munich, winning a gold medal, and in 1893 she won another gold medal for her paintings shown at the Chicago World Fair.

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), Angels Entertaining the Holy Child (1893), oil on canvas, 150 × 176 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

Her mature work consisted of portraits, some of which are now in the National Portrait Gallery, London, and religious works, which became more strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Among the latter is her Angels Entertaining the Holy Child (1893).

She started to paint in tempera from about 1895, and progressively abandoned oils, becoming a member of the Society of Painters in Tempera in 1905.

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), The Queen and the Page (1896), oil on canvas, 101 x 96.5 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

Her overtly Pre-Raphaelite The Queen and the Page (1896) was engraved by Franz Hanfstaengl, making her first print.

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), Aucassin & Nicolette (1898), oil on canvas, 124.5 x 81.3 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

Continuing with a Pre-Raphaelite interest in the mediaeval, her Aucassin & Nicolette (1898) shows the romance between a knight, son of Count Garin of Beaucaire, and a Saracen maiden. This was told in an anonymous 12th or 13th century French chantefable (sung story). She probably learned of this story from a translation which was published in 1887, or a plot summary in an anthology of 1896.

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), Madonna and Child (1905), tempera on panel, 80 x 59.5 cm, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Wolverhampton, England. Wikimedia Commons.

Among her most beautiful paintings in tempera are several classical versions of the Madonna and Child. This, from 1905, is a good example.

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), Madonna and Child with Symbols (c 1905), tempera and gilding, 36.8 x 31.7 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

Her Madonna and Child with Symbols (c 1905) was set in an elaborate devotional Spanish frame.

In 1908, she helped design and make banners for the Women Suffrage Procession to the Albert Hall.

In 1905, the couple made their first visit to Hungary, returning in 1907 and 1908. Their many paintings from these travels were exhibited from 1907 onwards, and in late October 1909, their book (see references) was published by A & C Black. The following have been taken from that: although their quality is more limited than I would like, they form a unique record of the country deep into the Austro-Hungarian Empire before it fell apart as a result of the First World War. Here is fine art as an ethnographic record, twenty-five years before practical colour photography.

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), A Cottage at Zsdjar (1909), other details not known. Wikimedia Commons.
Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), Young Girl of Zsdjar in Sunday Clothes (1909), other details not known. Wikimedia Commons.
Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), Slovak Girl in Sunday Attire (1909), other details not known. Wikimedia Commons.
Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), In Church at Vazsecz (1909), other details not known. Wikimedia Commons.
Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), An Engaged Couple, ‘Misko and Maruska’ at Menguszfalva (1909), other details not known. Wikimedia Commons.
Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), The Bridal Veil (1909), other details not known. Wikimedia Commons.

There are many more of their paintings included in their book; I have given all their dates as 1909 in the absence of any better information, although some may well have been completed as early as 1905.

Marianne Stokes (1855–1927), Death and the Maiden (1908), oil on canvas, 95 x 135 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Wikimedia Commons.

Her Death and the Maiden (1908) is reminiscent of Horace Vernet’s The Angel of Death (1851), a sadly popular theme at the time.

In 1912, she designed a tapestry for (William) Morris and Company, which was exhibited across Europe.

During the couple’s travels, they had become friends with John Singer Sargent, with whom they started to travel and paint. At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, they were travelling with Sargent in Austria, which was then at war with Great Britain. The group was forbidden from leaving Austria, but by mid December had managed to reach Switzerland.


Were it not for one excellent recent account of their lives and works, by Magdalen Evans (see below), the Stokeses would have almost vanished now, as a result of their neglect during the rest of the twentieth century.

Their paintings have all but disappeared too: Adrian’s into provincial galleries across the UK, which seem intent on hiding them from the public (and don’t even make images of them freely available), and Marianne’s largely into private collections. Neither has a catalog raisonné, and they are barely mentioned in the literature.

Marianne Stokes was probably the most accomplished woman painter after the Impressionists, yet she is omitted from most accounts of women artists. She mastered a range of styles and media, and painted across many different genres, including her unique record of Slovak and other peoples of Hungary.

Adrian Stokes was perhaps less versatile than his wife, but his landscapes were distinctive in their treatment of light and colour, and he played an important role in the development of St Ives as a centre for art.

Don’t their paintings deserve better than the oblivion of neglect?



Evans, M (2009) Utmost Fidelity, The Painting Lives of Marianne and Adrian Stokes, Sansom & Company. ISBN 978 1 9045 3785 4.
Stokes, A & M (1909) Hungary, Painted by Adrian & Marianne Stokes, Adam and Charles Black, London. Available to download from