A Faun, 1906


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Marion Wallace-Dunlop’s roaring and grinning Devils in Divers Shapes

emerged from an imagination that conceived daring and innovative

protests for the women’s suffrage movement, including the first hungerstrike

campaign. In July of 1909, Wallace-Dunlop staged a hunger strike

and followed up with newspaper interviews. Previously, she led other

protests, including women’s deputations to Parliament and stamping

messages in violet ink on the walls of Westminster (she is memorialised

in the stained glass in St. Stephen’s Porch), and, later, massive street

processions – each conceived to capture headlines and stir emotions.

Her rare 1905 prints similarly evoke outrage, humour and

impishness. A devotee of faery lore, the Celtic twilight and fine art,

Wallace-Dunlop grew up near Inverness and descended from the rebel

family of William of Wallace. Trained in fine art, Wallace-Dunlop set

up her studio in 1890s London, out of which she painted portraits

and watercolours, illustrated children’s books and published cartoons

in Punch and elsewhere. After 1906, however, she turned her classical

training in painting and printmaking to the service of the militant

women’s suffrage movement. Along with the Pankhursts in the Women’s

Social and Political Union, she directed the creation of tapestries, banners

and prints.

These diminutive devils fascinate because they seem to embody full

emotions – from deep outrage to mild distemper, wild surprise to joyful

and proud self-regard – with a measure of innocence. These “divers”,

androgynous, and sometimes amphibious creatures are never bashful and

are in full command of their moments. Their emotionality distinguishes

them from the urbane and decadent illustrations of her contemporaries

William Strang and Aubrey Beardsley. Like them, Wallace-Dunlop’s

imagination did not peddle morality over passion, but unlike their works,

Devils in Divers Shapes unapologetically revels in both soulful silliness and

emotive energy.

Commentary by Joseph Lennon, Associate Dean, Emily C. Riley Director of Irish Studies and Professor of English at Villanova University. He has written two books – Irish Orientalism: A Literary and Intellectual History (2008) and Fell Hunger (2011). His current project focuses on the origins of the modern hunger strike.

Additional information

Dimensions 10.2 × 12.8 cm