Phoebe Anna Traquair

1852 – August 4, 1936


Phoebe Anna Traquair was an Irish artist, noted for her role in the Arts and Crafts movement in Scotland, as an illustrator, painter and embroiderer.

Phoebe Traquair was born Phoebe Anna Moss in County Dublin, and married the Scottish palaeontologist Ramsay Heatley Traquair on 5 June 1873. The family moved to Edinburgh, and some of her work was palaeontological drawing related to her husband's research. Their son Ramsay Traquair was an eminent architectural academic.

Phoebe is buried with her husband, and the ashes of her son Harry Moss Traquair, in Colinton Parish Church Graveyard. She designed the gravestone.

Traquair painted the interiors of four Edinburgh buildings between 1885 and 1901. Her wall painting include the chapels of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children (1885–1886 and 1896–1898) which includes the mortuary murals, painted 1885 at Meadowside House and transferred to the new site. The mortuary was a small windowless coal house where bodies could be left "reverently and lovingly" until the children were taken by the parents for burial. The paintings illustrated the redemption of mankind.

The song school of St Mary's Cathedral (1888–92) won Traquair national recognition. Within a tunnel-vaulted interior, the east wall depicts the cathedral clergy and choir. The south wall depicts Traquair's admired contemporaries such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, and George Frederic Watts. On the north wall birds and choristers sing together, and the west wall shows the four beasts singing the Sanctus. The Song School is still used daily for practice by the Choristers.

Her best-known work is in the vast former Catholic Apostolic Church (1893–1901) in Broughton Street which has been called "Edinburgh’s Sistine Chapel", and "a jewelled crown". It was this work which helped to confirm her international recognition.

Another of her major works is the illuminated manuscript of Sonnets from the Portuguese by the Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, a key Arts and Crafts manuscript. This is held by the National Library of Scotland and a version is available on the NLS Digital Library.


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