Phoebe Anna Traquair
Phoebe Anna Moss was born into a Dublin medical family and studied art with the Royal Dublin Society. She moved to Edinburgh in 1874 with her husband Dr Ramsay Traquair and they had three children. Initially her art consisted of watercolours and embroidery. Later she illuminated manuscripts, tooled bookcovers and, after 1900, took up enamelling.
Public art gave her imagination and ambition an even greater scope. Her first commission came from the Edinburgh Social Union in 1885 for the decoration of a tiny chapel at the first Hospital for Sick Children. This was painted in an eclectic mix of medieval, Byzantine and Pre-Raphaelitism and reflected her interest in the poet-artist William Blake. A second commission, for St Mary’s Cathedral Song School, soon followed and made her name.
Critics wrote of her modern colour and extraordinary imagination. In 1904 Phoebe Traquair’s finest embroideries The Progress of a Soul (now in the National Gallery of Scotland) were shown at the World’s Fair in St Louis. Although highly respected, she was turned down for professional membership of the Royal Scottish Academy but finally elected an honorary member in 1920. She died in Edinburgh at the age of eighty-four.