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Your General Entry ticket includes entry to all exhibitions and the Collection Galleries.
Sarah Biffin (or Biffen), (1784—1850), also known by her married name Mrs. Wright, was an artist working in the first half of the nineteenth century. This exhibition will be the first major museum exhibition to examine Biffin’s life and work. Her remarkable story has been largely overlooked by historians and we hope to correct this.
Biffin was born with the condition “phocomelia”, described on her baptism record as “born without arms and legs”. She went on to train as an artist, using her mouth to draw, sew, write and paint watercolours in miniature. In her early twenties, she was contracted to Mr Dukes, who ran a travelling sideshow, and her talents astonished the crowds who turned up to see her work. One such spectator was the wealthy and well-connected Earl of Morton, who supported her in her quest to finesse her artistic skills. In her mid-twenties she began formal tuition with a miniature painter (William Marshall Craig) and at the Royal Academy Schools. From 1816 she set herself up as professional artist, taking commissions from nobility and royalty, including the young Queen Victoria. Biffin worked up until her death in 1850 and was assisted financially through an annuity purchased by a group of loyal friends.
The Holburne’s exhibition will present an incisive and comprehensive picture of Biffin with a discussion of her work within the context of her life and times. It will include portraits, still lifes and ephemera relating to her career.
The Holburne Museum would like to thank Alison Lapper MBE, Emma Rutherford, and Ellie Smith.
This exhibition has been generously supported by an anonymous donor with additional support from the Holburne Director’s Circle, Patrons and Friends.
Image credit: Sarah Biffin (1784–1850), Self-portrait, watercolour and gouache on paper, c.1842 © South West Heritage Trust and Somerset Council