At the turn of the twentieth century, when few women made their name as professional artists, Victoria, B.C.-born Sophie Pemberton (1869–1959) earned international acclaim for her realist portraits and landscape paintings. Propelled by extraordinary ambition and talent, in 1899 Pemberton won the prestigious Prix Julian for her portraiture; that same year, she began showing at the Paris Salon, where critics were captivated by her modern, Impressionist-influenced canvases.
In Sophie Pemberton: Life & Work, author Kathryn Bridge offers a comprehensive account of this exceptional artist’s oeuvre, spanning fifty years from the time when, at the age of twenty, Pemberton began her formal academic training in South Kensington, England. It explores how, with drive and tenacity, Pemberton studied Renaissance art and sketched landscapes en plein air in Italy, exhibited her work throughout England, and cemented her reputation in Paris.
The book highlights the accounts behind Pemberton’s celebrated portraits, her domestic decorative practice, and her European and British Columbian landscapes. Through this essential book, Kathryn Bridge shares a keen understanding of the phenomenal force of will that enabled Pemberton to weather family tragedies and physical maladies to reach a degree of international success enjoyed by few other women artists of her generation.
Dr. Kathryn Bridge is Curator of History and Art (Emerita) at the Royal BC Museum, Victoria. She retired in 2017 after an extensive career in which she variously served as archivist, historian, and curator. Bridge is also an adjunct faculty member in the history department at the University of Victoria. Her research interests include the art and life of Emily Carr, British Columbia’s colonial families, and the Gold Rush. Bridge’s book By Snowshoe, Buckboard & Steamer won the 1998 B.C. Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing.