Art Wednesday

Helen Allingham: (1848 - 1926 ) watercolourist

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.
 Irish cottage
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

Off marketing

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  1. These are so English!! :) I love English cottages - there's something really charming about them. I am constantly amazed at artist's talents and the details they put in their paintings.

  2. I love her work, Jo, & while in England saw many cottages like this ~ though sadly modernized. lol
    All right for us to say they should have been preserved as was but people have to live in them! No plumbing. No hot & cold. No bathrooms.

  3. Ganeida - perhaps Helen didn't think about the liveability of the homes, rather just their history. I would assume some of the cottages in Scotland and Ireland were even worse, being much smaller.

  4. Hi Jo~ posted a link on my blog tonight...

    I'm always amazed how artists can get such details with watercolors.

  5. Those old cottages are very romantic indeed:) loved learning about another artist today!

  6. I love these paintings Jo! They are gorgeous... my husband is from England, and the English countryside is something he often thinks about, and misses. Maybe one day we will get to go there together... him, returning and me, a first visit.

  7. Amanda - my husband is from Wales and I would love to visit and see all the places he visited as a boy. I would also like to visit Scotland, the home of my grandfathers family. One day, God willing.

  8. Jo, my ancestors are Welsh and I believe it is very beautiful there too... one couldn't make the trip to England without visiting these places, ie Wales, Scotland, I don't think!! We can dream eh?! :D

  9. Interesting bit about how architects study the paintings. I especially liked the last one....such nice half timbering. And I must always remind myself that in England the half timbering (most of it)is real, unlike the lick and stick variety we have here in the States. I suppose it's our own funny little way of trying to make the oh-so-modern look old!

  10. Jo,

    I really like Helen's percise detail in her water color work of the cottages. They are quite breath-taking and beautiful.

    Helen also sounded like a very interesting woman. I think I would have liked to meet her in person.


    -Lady Rose


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