Born in London in 1891, Rosalie Emslie was raised in an artistic family, the daughter of the painter Alfred Edward Emslie and the portrait miniaturist Rosalie M. Emslie. After a private education, she studied at the Royal Academy Schools from 1913 to 1918. Afterwards she continued her artistic education through travels to Paris, Florence and Madrid, encountering the great paintings that would prove a lasting inspiration to her, such as Piero della Francesca's Nativity, Manet's Olympia and Cezanne's Mont St Victoire.1
Although she became best known as a landscape and portrait painter, her nudes made an impression on her contemporaries through their modernity, such as that exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1927, whose naturalistic pose and non-idealised depiction of the female body provoked a controversy. As the historian Jane Nicholas states, "Nudes of women painted by women pushed the limits of acceptability because they implied familiarity with anatomy, a relationship to a studio model (women who often existed on the margins of society), or the possibility of a self-portrait."2
The sensual yet realistic representation of the female figure in this work is characteristic of Emslie's nudes, its evocative atmosphere heightened by the way in which its subject meets the viewer’s gaze, and by the ambiguous spatial relationship between the model and the dragon motif above her; perhaps merely a decorative pattern on a backdrop, or alternatively an embodiment of her inner state.
Emslie exhibited regularly in Great Britain (R.A., R.B.A, S.W.A, N.E.A.C, Goupil Gallery) and abroad, notably at the Paris Salon and in the Venice International Exhibition. In 1922 she was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists.
1 Adrian Bury, (1938), ‘Oil painting of to-day’, London: The Studio New York, The Studio Publications, p.119
2 Jane Nicholas (Nov. 2008) ‘“A figure of a nude woman”: Art, Popular Culture, and Modernity at the Canadian National Exhibition, 1927’. In Histoire sociale/Social history, Vol. 41 (82), p. 321