Important Anna Lea Merritt painting rediscovered

Bagshawe Fine Art is delighted to announce the recent rediscovery of an important lost work by the American artist Anna Lea Merritt (1844-1930). Merritt, a highly competent professional artist with strong links to England’s late Pre-Raphaelite movement, exhibited consistently in both England and America throughout her lifetime but major works by her are rare.

Missing since the time of the first World War, Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me (1905) is a larger, more detailed and more ambitious version of an earlier undertaking of the same subject Merritt had created as a reredos for the Church of St Martin’s in Blackheath, Surrey, in 1899.

The painting was commissioned by the well-known suffragette and educationalist Dorothea Beale LL.D. (1831-1906). Today, Beale is remembered as the highly important early principal of Cheltenham Ladies’ College, where she served for almost 50 years. Later in her career she founded a teacher training college, St Hilda’s College, in Cheltenham and later still St Hilda’s Hall in Oxford, a college for women. This last would go on to become St Hilda’s College, now a full constituent college of Oxford University. Beale knew Merritt very well, thought highly of her work and indeed had her own portrait painted by her, which still hangs in Cheltenham Ladies’ College today.

A photograph from 1913 shows Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me hanging in pride of place in a classroom at Cheltenham Ladies’ College where Beale herself would have lectured, but the painting’s whereabouts since then have been unknown. Its reappearance constitutes an important and thoroughly welcome addition to the list of Merritt’s surviving works.