Rare Book & Manuscript Library Image Collections

Raymond Biswanger Slide Collection

The Brontës: 1834
Haworth, West Yorkshire

The Brontë Sisters was painted by Branwell Brontë in 1834, and is famous for its primitive haunting beauty and rare subject, namely the three Brontë sisters themselves. The painting has often been referred to as The Pillar Portrait but under the “pillar” the painted-out figure of Branwell can now be discerned.

It is a work of Branwell's immaturity, and is poor in technique. It was perhaps one of his first attempts at working in oils. Branwell himself was unhappy with the composition and his own self-portrait. Elizabeth Gaskell likewise thought little of the craftsmanship when Charlotte showed it to her in Haworth in 1853, but she noted its likeness and the moving expressions on the faces, remarking that “Emily's countenance struck [her] as full of power; Charlotte's of solicitude, Anne's of tenderness.”

The Brontë Sisters by Branwell Brontë [7 May 1983]

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