The Forgotten Artist: Louisa Fennell

Have you ever heard of Louisa Fennell? Well if not, you’re not the only one! This Wakefield local was a prominent watercolour artist of the 19th century who painted many scenes of the local area. She has been lost in the pages of history, but the Forgotten Women of Wakefield project ( have recently brought Louisa’s story back to life, and through their efforts there is now a blue plaque in her honour in St John’s Square Wakefield.

So who was Louisa? She was born on the 30th September 1847 in Wakefield to William and Mary Fennell. The Fennell’s belonged to the Church of England and Louisa was baptised at Holy Trinity Church Wakefield on 25th November 1847. She was the eldest of 12 children and the family lived comfortably in Westgate, Wakefield where her father worked as a wine merchant. From a young age Louisa showed artistic promise, becoming an esteemed watercolour painter, and when she was only 18 years old she was awarded a medal from the Wakefield Industrial and Fine Art Exhibition. The art world was male-dominated in the 19th century, but Louisa still made her mark attending prestigious art schools like Wakefield College of Art and Penzance School of Art. Throughout Louisa’s long career she exhibited her work at numerous institutions including the Royal Society of British Artists and Ripon Industrial Exhibition. In her early career she travelled Europe, and during her travels spent time in Rome where she created 12 lithographs relating to the life of St Paul. In her later years she settled back in Wakefield focusing her art on the local scenery. These paintings whilst being brilliant pieces of art in their own right, also now provide us with a historical landscape of Wakefield which has changed drastically over the years. Louisa never married and lived with her family throughout her life, dying in 1930 at the age of 82 due to heart failure.

At Wakefield we’re fortunate to hold what is purported to be the childhood diary of Louisa, which covers the period January 15th 1860 – December 19th 1860. It is from the John Goodchild collection and provides a fascinating glimpse into her early forays into art. On the 30th January she wrote “I had my first drawing lesson with Mr Tootal”, Mr Tootal would later tutor Louisa at the Wakefield College of Art, and on the next few pages she has even drawn some ostriches!

Diary Drawing

If you are interested in learning more about Louisa, a walking trail has been designed by the Forgotten Women of Wakefield project which you can find out more about here:

By Dominique Triggs, Archive Assistant

4 thoughts on “The Forgotten Artist: Louisa Fennell

  1. We have a original folder with water colours by L Fennell , of Wakefield the folder is numbered with a limited number we are looking for someone who can help with more information on them . Thank you

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