Regency Painters and Jane Austen’s Time, by Gianna Thomas

Regency Painters and Jane Austen’s Time, by Gianna Thomas

The Regency era is such an interesting period of time. In spite of the turbulence of the Napoleonic Wars and the falling outs with the Americans, life still went on. Part of that involved the arts including painting.

I thought you readers might enjoy taking a quick look at some of the painters that lived at the same time as Jane Austen or painted the Regency era. Did she enjoy art? The short time I spent researching that topic didn’t reveal anything and will require more effort. We do know she enjoyed music and dancing, and some of the paintings we’ll consider today might include some that she saw in person at one of the galleries in London in 1815 when she was invited to visit the Regent’s home.

Austen learned that the Prince Regent admired her novels and kept a set at each of his residences. In November 1815, the Prince Regent’s librarian James Stanier Clarke invited Austen to visit the Prince’s London residence and hinted Austen should dedicate the forthcoming Emma to the Prince. Though Austen disliked the Prince Regent, she could scarcely refuse the request. Austen disapproved of the Prince Regent on the account of his womanising, gambling, drinking, spendthrift ways and generally disreputable behaviour.

In this post, I’ll consider four painters who’s works reflect the Regency era or who actually lived during that time period. One of my favorites is Edmund Blair Leighton who, although he lived after Jane Austen, is known for his Regency and Medieval paintings.

Edmund Blair Leighton (1852-1922)

Leighton was a fastidious craftsman, producing highly finished, decorative pictures, displaying romanticized scenes with a popular appeal. It would appear that he left no diaries, and though he exhibited at the Royal Academy for over forty years, he was never an Academician or an Associate.

The following paintings give you an idea of how beautiful his works are. A couple of them, I even featured in my illustrated Darcy Chooses Parts1 and 2.

A Wet Sunday Morning


Signing the Register


These first two were in my illustrated books. Of the next two, the first is a Regency scene, and the second is one that I would like to build a story around in future.

The Gallant Suitor


My next door neighbour


Joseph Mallord William Turner – 1775-1851

Born in the same year as Jane Austen, it’s possible she saw some of his works when she visited London. Known basically for his landscapes and ocean scenes that included storms and ships, his earlier works are more defined than his later paintings that became more abstract. I wonder if his paintings would have been her ‘cup of tea.’


Dolbadarn Castle (in Wales)




A View of the Archbishop’s palace – Lambeth (Turner was only 15 years old when this watercolor was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1790)


Fisherman at Sea


All five of these paintings were done before Jane Austen’s death in 1817 along with several others, any of which she might have seen in person.

I do recognize his genius and love most of his earlier works and some of his abstracts though they are not my favorites.

Marguerite Gérard (1761-1837)

For nearly 50 years, Marguerite Gérard very successfully devoted herself to art garnering fame and wealth for her efforts. She won three medals for her beautiful paintings and exhibited regularly once salons were opened to women in the 1790’s. Gérard was also the first woman in France to succeed as a genre painter. She is best known for her domestic genre scenes portraying mainly women and their children in intimate settings even though she also produced oil portraits, portrait miniatures, and etchings.


Lady Reading in the Interior (This is my Avatar and my favorite painting by Marguerite Gérard)


As you look at her paintings, note the exquisite detail of the ladies’ dresses. They look so real, I just want to reach out and touch them.

Le déjeuner du chat (The Cat’s Lunch) (And I want to pet this gorgeous cat)


La duchesse d’Abrantès et le général Junot (Duchess of Abrantès and General Junot)


La Nourrice (The Nanny)


She never married and never had children as she was completely devoted to her art and career. It can truly be said that she was an independent woman in a time period that saw women as being very dependent on the men in their lives. Marguerite Gérard flourished by standing on her own and setting a standard for female artists for the future.

Although they were in separate artistic genres and in different countries, Jane Austen and Marguerite Gérard did have some characteristics in common and might have been friends or appreciated each other’s works, at the very least, if they had ever met.


Frédéric Soulacroix – 1858-1933

Soulacroix is one of my very favorite painters because of the exquisite details in his works. The wallpaper on my desktop and the painting on my Facebook Fan Page/Timeline are all one of his paintings called ‘Flirtation.’ I just love it.

Soulacroix loved painting beautiful women dressed and otherwise. We’ll ignore the otherwise in the post. 

Although Edmund Blair Leighton painted more than one class of persons, Soulacroix seemed to deal more with the wealthy upper classes. Thus, his paintings are of women in rather expensive clothes and surroundings: silks and satins on women in opulent drawing rooms. And they are gorgeous.

Unfortunately, he was after Jane Austen’s time though many of his paintings were of Regency bent and probably on into the 1830’s. I wonder if she would have appreciated his works. I hope so and that you do as well.



One of the details I love about ‘Flirtation’ is her shawl/stole. If you can get a closeup view of it, it looks like it is made of a sheer net fabric. His painting of the fine details made his works very special.

Look at the post of the music stand below.

The Recital


Afternoon Tea for Three


The Afternoon Visitor


I hope you have enjoyed a quick look at some painters whose works reflect the Regency era. Please let me know in your comments below if you would like to see more in the future.



Jane Austen

Edmund Blair Leighton

James Mallord William Turner

Marguerite Gérard

Fréderic Soulacroix

Gianna Thomas Author

Gianna Thomas Timeline

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[…] Joseph Mallord William Turner (abbreviated J.M.W. Turner) is a great example. (In fact, it was a post here on Austen Authors that introduced me to him when I was researching my last series!) Turner was from a middle class […]

MaryAnn Nagy
September 4, 2021 9:54 PM

Very interestng article and the paintings are beautiful. I just watched a movie today called, “The Last Vermeer” based on a true story of the greatest forger of all times selling Verneer paintings during the war.

Donald W. Meaders
Donald W. Meaders
November 27, 2020 3:49 AM

Gianna, It’s Thanksgiving, 2020 as I write this and I hope you are still following comments. I came across your charming blog while pursuing one of my interests, 19th Century art in all its forms. This includes, of course, the literature, (and filmed versions thereof) bequeathed to a grateful world by the grande dame of romance. The connections you make change my perspective as I sit here listening to Cole Porter’s “True Love,” where Grace Kelly takes the more challenging harmony to Bing Crosby, and looking at my most romantic painting, by one of the artists you mention. I keep a low profile, but if you get this, email me and I’ll send you a photo that will, I hope, capture the vivid impression that the authentic work leaves with every viewer. I bought it at first view because it reminded me of my beautiful daughter.

Ellen Lundberg
Ellen Lundberg
January 19, 2019 1:58 PM

I have enjoyed several of your Austen Spins & look forward to more. I am intrigued by the possibilities if you run with Turner’s “My Next Door Neighbor” and love it when there are period appropriate illustrations included. Placing Darcy in an attached townhouse might take a twist or two since most descriptions of Darcy House seem to describe a large free-standing city manor house on a sizeable lot; but you will figure that one out. Not so difficult to invite Elizabeth for an extended visit with wealthy friends or distant relatives (surprising, here-to-fore unmentioned, “connections”?).
Keep up your good work.

Sheila L. Majczan
Sheila L. Majczan
May 26, 2017 10:10 PM

Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing and thank you for your research.

Jennifer Redlarczyk
Jennifer Redlarczyk
April 19, 2017 9:03 AM

The paintings and references are so awesome. Thanks so much for sharing. Jen Red

Gianna Thomas
April 19, 2017 2:49 PM

My pleasure, Jen.

Georgina Young-Ellis
Georgina Young-Ellis
April 17, 2017 5:43 PM

I definitely have a weakness for Turner. Thanks for this fascinating post!

Gianna Thomas
April 17, 2017 6:33 PM

You’re quite welcome, Georgina. I will also do future posts about other painters as well. And, when I get back to my blogs on my website, I’ll have one that will be exclusive to Turner. 🙂

Leenie Brown
April 17, 2017 3:54 PM

Oh, this is a favourite thing of mine — paintings like this. There is so much to enchant the imagination for hours! Leighton is among my favourites as is Soulacroix. Soulacroix has a painting that I believe is called In the Dressing Room that, although scandalous, fascinates me because the fabric is sheer. You can see the body beneath. The skill to do something like that to me is mind boggling. Another set of painters that I like from around this time period are the Hardys — James, Jr. and Heywoood. Their father was also a painter and would have been painting during Jane Austen’s life, I think. I especially enjoy Heywood’s paintings of country scenes with horses and dogs in them. I do not pretend to be any sort of art expert at all. I just know I love looking at paintings like these, wondering at the abilities of the people who created them, and conjuring stories that might go with them. 🙂

Gianna Thomas
April 17, 2017 4:30 PM
Reply to  Leenie Brown

In the Dressing Room is a fascinating painting, Leenie. Soulacroix was a master at painting something sheer (see-through) so every detail still popped. Although, I’m not a conoisseur of art per se, I’m like you; I know what I like and love. Thank you for mentioning the Hardys. I am not familiar with their paintings. I just took a look at some of Heywood’s. Interesting. I noticed that his horses are much more detailed than the people and surroundings. I wonder if that’s where his heart lay. I do like his paintings, but was unable to find any information about his father. There’s a fair amount of information on James, Jr. and Heywood, and I’ll be looking for more of their paintings. And, yes, beautiful paintings do lend themselves to being inspirations for further books. 🙂

April 17, 2017 2:04 PM

SIGH! These paintings are exquisite! Gianna, thank you so much for sharing them with us! 🙂

Gianna Thomas
April 17, 2017 3:27 PM
Reply to  carylkane

My pleasure, Caryl. I just love these paintings. Unfortunately, pictures don’t do them justice. I saw one of Monet’s paintings several years ago at the Kimble Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The prints are not even close as they don’t even begin to capture Monet’s use of light. If these pictures make us want to swoon, just imagine what the real paintings are like. Triple sigh!!!

Teresa Broderick
Teresa Broderick
April 17, 2017 11:42 AM

Some truly beautiful paintings here and I have to agree, some of them you feel like if you touched them you’d feel the material in the clothes. A lovely post and I for one would like to see more paintings of this ilk!!

Gianna Thomas
April 17, 2017 3:22 PM

Thank you. I’m delighted you enjoyed them, Teresa. And, yes, I probably will do similar posts in the future.

Carole in Canada
Carole in Canada
April 17, 2017 11:37 AM

Thank you so much for this gorgeous post! I absolutely love detailed paintings of the Regency period. There is a soft lushness to these paintings. But I would have to say my first love is portraits from that time or those done of that time. Turner was amazing in his water scenes. We have two old prints of his that my husband just loves. Of the ones you have shown here, I would say that ‘The Recital’ is my favourite, not only for the woman and her dress details but that music stand is gorgeous!!! Favourite artists of mine are Sir Thomas Lawrence, Henry Raeburn and John Singer Sargent to name a few and not all during the Regency period. Another famous French woman artist was Madame Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun (16 April 1755 – 30 March 1842). I had known of the others but Marguerite Gérard is new to me. I will have to check her out further. Thank you again for this!

Gianna Thomas
April 17, 2017 3:21 PM

Glad you enjoyed it, Carole. These four artists were ones I’ve featured in my Regency Painting Series in my blogs on I’ll be adding other artists later as well. I like Le Brun’s paintings too as well as Lawrence’s. Another Georgian/Regency painter I like is Adelaide Labille-Guiard. I first saw her self portrait a couple of years ago and loved it. Then I could never find it again until recently because I forgot her name. But then again, I’m not French. 🙂 I will probably do another post featuring other artists in future. Would love to see these paintings in person. Sigh!

April 17, 2017 6:55 PM
Reply to  Gianna Thomas

Just been looking at some of the paintings on your blog, Gianna. One that caught my eye was Adieu – with a sailor and a young lady. It brought to mind the sad tale of Captain Benwick and Phoebe Harville from Persuasion. It could easily be them saying goodbye, not knowing they would never meet again.

I’ve also looked up In the Dressing Room by Soulacroix. It’s incredible the way he painted that oh-so-sheer fabric so that you can see the woman’s skin through it. It’s a similar sort of talent to the sculptor who created the statue of the veiled Vestal Virgin that featured in the sculpture gallery scene in P&P 2005. How do you carve stone so that it looks like sheer draped fabric?

Oh, and is there a way of following your blog posts? I couldn’t see a signup box anywhere on the screen, but I am admittedly using my iPad, so it might not be all that apparent.

Gianna Thomas
April 19, 2017 10:19 PM
Reply to  Anji

I agree, his paintings of sheer material and the sculpture are remarkable. As to blog posts, as you can see, I am behind on them. I’m getting ready to start Gianna’s Tidbits back up. The blogs are posted to about twenty different groups and on my website. I usually send out an email to my list when I post a blog. I started the Regency Painters a while back and need to finish that series. It will probably have 10-12 painters total. My list gets emailed no more than once a week and sometimes less. 🙂 There is a form on the Series page for the Regency Romance Readers List. If you would like to be put on the list for P&P’s, please email me at

April 17, 2017 10:41 AM

Loved all the paintings. It’s hard to believe the one was done when the artist was only 15 years old. I was pretty surprised by The Nanny painting as I would have thought that would have been pretty scandalous during that time period. At least in England, perhaps in France it was quite different.

Gianna Thomas
April 17, 2017 3:10 PM
Reply to  darcybennett

Glad you enjoyed them, Darcy. Turner was a genius painter even at a young age. Gérard did quite well as a painter and was very popular. Her paintings were smaller than what had been ‘vogue’ until her time. More than just the wealthy could afford her works, and they were more portable than the huge paintings that had been so favored before. France probably was more accepting of ‘The Nanny’ though I wonder if it should have been translated ‘The Wet Nurse’ in English. However, when one thinks of it, nude paintings and sculptures had been done for centuries. The French people probably didn’t raise an eyebrow over it though the English might have been scandalized if it had come to English shores :).

April 17, 2017 10:40 AM

I like best Afternoon Tea for Three. The skill shown in capturing the fabric of the gowns is amazing.

White lace wedding dresses came in right after Jane Austen’s time, didn’t they? The Signing the Register painting certainly shows that difference. I’ve read it was all because Queen Victoria had white lace on her gown when she married Prince Albert in 1840. I wonder if Jane Austen would have found it frivolous, wedding dresses more and more designed to be worn only the one time.

Gianna Thomas
April 17, 2017 3:00 PM
Reply to  summerhanford

I don’t think white wedding dresses were totally unheard of prior to Austen’s time, but they weren’t tradition until Queen Victoria’s time. ‘By the end of the 19th century the white dress was the garment of choice for elite brides on both sides of the Atlantic. However, middle-class British and American brides did not adopt the trend fully until after World War II.’ (White Wedding) Prior to that time brides everywhere apparently chose what color they liked including red, if you can imagine a red wedding gown. Debutantes and those presented at court had long been required to wear white. Maybe the colored wedding gowns were the young brides first foray into wearing colors especially brighter colors. I found it interesting that Queen Victoria even had her wedding gown restyled to be worn again after her own wedding.

I agree that ‘Afternoon Tea for Three’ is skillfully done. Soulacroix’s skill at detail, I think, has rarely been matched. It’s something that really sets his paintings apart from other artists.

April 17, 2017 9:00 AM

Great post Gianna. 🙂 I love Regency paintings used as covers for books, it adds a genuine touch. It comes as no surprise, that Turner (my favorite 🙂 ) is less suitable for P&P than sweet and pretty paintings of Frédéric Soulacroix or Edmund Blair Leighton’s. Thanks for sharing.

Gianna Thomas
April 17, 2017 9:30 AM
Reply to  KateB

You’re welcome, Kate. Turner does have a small number that might be suitable. But even so, I do love his earlier paintings including the ocean and ships. ‘Shipwreck’ is a particular favorite. I love how he did the moon and the clouds. 🙂

April 17, 2017 4:48 AM

Thanks for sharing these beautiful paintings with us, Gianna. Of the four artists, I only knew the name of one, Turner. I’ve seen some of the others around in the JAFF world but had no idea of who’d painted them or what they were called.

In the first one, I love the way the two ladies are leaning forward from underneath the lych gate at the church. I’ve not yet read your Darcy Chooses works (part of the humungous mountain I call my TBR list!), so I was wondering if you mention why they’re doing that or what they might be thinking or talking about. Presumably it’s to do with the couple (Darcy and Elizabeth?) walking away from the church? I’d love to read a story based upon My Next Door Neighbour – so many questions could be posed about that! Who are they? Why are they living next door to each other? Or, despite the painting’s title, could one, or even both, of them just be visiting?

I love Turner’s paintings, espeically his more abstract works, including the London sunsets (not pictured here). His use of colour to express the mood, not just the subject, of the painting is wonderful.

Marguerite Gérard’s works are totally new to me but, as you said, I just want to reach out and stroke the smooth, shininess of the silks and satins of the ladies’ gowns.

Frédéric Soulacroix was also unknown to me but the detail is simply amazing, as you said. The stole in Flirtation is so sheer that you can see detail of the gown through it – how did he manage that? In The Revital, I was looking at the music stand when the details of the folding screen behind the woman caught my eye. It’s simply exquisite! And then again, in the Afternoon Tea for Three painting, I just want to reach out and storke the fabric of the gowns, especially the striped one.

Thanks once again for sharing these. I’ve even created a Pinterest board for them!

Gianna Thomas
April 17, 2017 5:31 AM
Reply to  Anji

I’m glad you enjoyed these, Anji. Each of these artists has numerous paintings to enjoy. If you search each artist’s images on Google (i.e. Marguerite Gerard Images) and then click on ‘more images’ beneath the pictures, you’ll find many more of their paintings. In ‘Darcy Chooses,’ the comments around the painting ‘A Wet Sunday Morning’ actually centered around Darcy and Elizabeth’s conversation as he walks her to the Bennets’ carriage. Carolyn Bingley had just stormed out of the church jostling several of the ladies in the process because of her displeasure over Darcy’s attention to Elizabeth. So, the two ladies in the doorway could be gossiping about Miss Bingley or Darcy and Elizabeth. 🙂 I’m delighted you set up a Pinterest board. How can I find it?

April 17, 2017 8:58 AM
Reply to  Gianna Thomas

Hi Gianna. I originally set up my Pinterest account to earn extra entries in giveaways but I’ve been holding off getting overly involved with it as I had a feeling it’d suck me into spending too much time there. I was right!

Now I’m compiling lots of boards of my JAFF books and JAFF related stuff. They’re all very much WIPs but if you want to have a look at what I’ve got so far, just search for Anji Dale. My avatar there is the same as my WordPress one.

Gianna Thomas
April 17, 2017 9:26 AM
Reply to  Anji

Thanks, Anji. I’ll take a look. 🙂

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