Helen was born in Derbyshire, the eldest of 7 children. She showed a talent for art from an early age, inspired by her grandmother and aunt, both accomplished artists of their day. She studied 3 years at the Birmingham School of Design, then from 1867 attended the "Female School of Art", a section of which became the Royal Collage of Arts in London.
Whilst a student, she worked as an illustrator, working on both children’s and adult books including the Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the madding crowd”. When she married William Allingham in 1874 she gave up illustration and turned to water-colour painting.
In 1881 the family moved to Whitley in Surrey where she painted many of her cottages, picturesque farmhouses. She became the first woman to be admitted as a full member of the Royal Watercolour Society.
Cottage near Wells
Cottage at Chiddingfold
Her devotion to cottages, however, was not merely for the sentimental pleasure of an industrialized London society. Railway lines were cutting a swathe through the countryside, bringing a swelling middle class seeking new comfortable country homes. The old thatched cottages that stood for hundreds of years were now being modernized or even demolished at a rapid pace. Helen set out to immortalize these ancient bastions, capturing every detail in extraordinary accuracy with a warm, sympathetic style unmatched by other artists of the time. She traveled the countryside, staying just ahead of the builders and wrecking balls, painting outdoors with a pallette of just nine colors. While she would add figures and occasionally reverse modernization by restoring thatch or window latticework, she was careful to keep idealization to a minimum. To this day her works are studied by architects to better understand the construction techniques of a lost time. From the Helen Allinghams website
Beneath the cherry tree
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