Lady Feodora Gleichen MRBS (1861-1922), was elected to the Society posthumously in 1922, making her one of the first female members of the Society alongside Christine Gregory FRBS and Flora Kendrick FRBS.
Gleichen was the eldest daughter of Admiral Prince Victor of Hohenlohe and a descendent of Queen Victoria. the Admiral was also a sculptor and Gleichen maintained that she gained a solid foundation in art training from working in her father’s studio with him and his foreman, Carl Müller. Subsequently, by the time she went to the Slade School aged seventeen, where she studied under Alphonse Legros, she was already well versed in anatomy and the technique of modelling.
Gleichen was close to the Royal family, which gave her unprecedented access to upper-class patrons. Her first commission was a life-sized marble of Queen Victoria surrounded by her children for the Children's Hospital in Montreal and she often submitted busts of her Royal and aristocratic patrons to the annual Royal Academy exhibitions. As her career progressed she was also commissioned for more public artworks, such as the 1914 monument to Florence Nightingale at the Derby Royal Infirmary.
One of Gleichen's most significant works was Diana Fountain (now called the Huntress Fountain), originally completed for Lady Palmer of Reading in 1906. The fountain had initially been installed at Frognal, Sunninghill, but was later presented to Hyde Park. The Diana Fountain is one of Gleichen's most idealistic works, and is important not only for its eventual placement in a public space but for the display of a nude woman, standing languorously with her arms held up in the motion of drawing a bow and arrow. On most public monuments, mythological or allegorical figures were at least partially draped, as was the case with the sculptural groups on the Albert Memorial. For this sculpture to have been allowed in a public space shows not only the high regard and respect which must have been held for Gleichen's artistic capabilities, but that she herself had the courage to exhibit an artwork that supposedly contradicted traditional feminine behaviour.
In 1910 Gleichen was selected by the Windsor National Memorial Committee to erect a statue of the late King Edward VII in front of the hospital at Windsor. Although this was clearly a privilege to be chosen to undertake such a major task (particularly as few female sculptors were given the chance to create full scale statues of men), The Times appeared to undermine her artistic status by confirming and justifying her role with a male presence (her father), publishing: 'the countess is the eldest of three daughters of the late Prince Victor of Hohenlohe, himself a well-known sculptor'.
An award was set up in Gleichen’s memory, awarding £100 to “a woman sculptor who has completed her training and is commencing her professional career and is deserving of assistance”. This, the Fedora Gleichen Award, was awarded to many of our Pioneering Women including Anne Acheson, Rosamund Beatrice Fletcher, Christine Gregory, Karin Jonzen and Gwynneth Holt.
Much of Gleichen's personal archive can be found at the University of Glasgow library.
Listen to Dr Jonathan Black from Kingston University giving the lecture: Martial Masculinity, The Female Gaze and National Identity in the First World War Memorials of Feodora Gleichen, Kathleen Scott and Gertrude Alice Williams c.1919-1934 at the following link.