Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Manchester-based guest artist Sonny Ross, celebrates British artist Gluck’s 128th birthday. Known for their iconic portraits and picture-frame design, Gluck also painted over gender norms by refusing to use any forename or prefix (such as Miss or Mr).
On this day in 1895, Gluck was born into a successful family in London. While attending St. Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith, Gluck won a Royal Drawing Society Silver Star. They attended St. John’s Wood School of Art before moving to the village of Lamorna in Cornwall, a hot spot for artists. In Larmorna’s community, Gluck began defying traditional fashion and gender appearances. When an art society identified Gluck as “Miss Gluck” on its letterhead, Gluck immediately resigned.
Refusing to identify with an artistic school or movement, Gluck chose to only show their work in solo exhibitions. In 1924, they showcased 56 paintings at the Dorien Leigh Galleries in London. Every single painting sold and the floral paintings gained popularity among local interior designers.
In 1932, Gluck designed and patented a picture frame, later known as the Gluck frame. The three-tiered design, which traditionally matched the color of the wall it hung on, gave the illusion that its painting was part of the wall’s architecture. The British Art in Industry exhibitions debuted the design, which again attracted the attention of interior designers.
Inspired by the production of a Mozart opera, Gluck painted Medallion in 1936. The dual portrait of them and their lover is now an iconic lesbian statement and one of the most famous depictions of a lesbian relationship.
Gluck also fought for change in the arts industry. Dissatisfied with the quality of available paints for artist work, Gluck spent ten years campaigning to create a new standard for oil paints — and the British Standards Institution ultimately conceded.
In 1973, Gluck held their final exhibition and debuted over fifty paintings from throughout their career.
Gluck refused to compromise artistically and personally, and their legacy continues to inspire countless artists to express themselves freely. Happy Birthday, Gluck!
Guest Artist Q&A with Sonny Ross
Today’s Doodle was illustrated by Manchester-based guest artist Sonny Ross. Below, they share their thoughts behind the making of this Doodle:
Q. Why was this topic meaningful to you personally?
A: Gluck continues to be a huge influence on my work. Florals as portraits, portraits as florals, even elements of Gluck's brushwork influenced digital brushes I made. Also as a non-binary person, it's fitting to celebrate the life and work of someone who was historically gender nonconforming. It's no secret I try to include florals in most of my commercial work, and I'm sure if you followed that thread back long enough you'd find me seeing Gluck's work for the first time.
Q. What were your first thoughts when you were approached about working on this Doodle?
A: It’s rare that a project aligns with your own interests so initially I suppose I was grateful.
Q. Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular for this Doodle?
A: Absolutely. "The Pleiades" by Gluck, perhaps one of my favourite paintings. An otherwise unremarkable scene of foliage, dark with accents of colour from the flowers, everything coated in dew. It is totally dramatic, but could also be seen in your own garden. You will see elements of this piece making up the main body of the Doodle.
Q. What message do you hope people take away from your Doodle?
A: I want more people to look into Gluck's work. Explore the themes and whether you're a creative or not, I feel you could take something away.