Helen Allingham (1848 - 1926)

‘[Helen is] making a record of many beautiful old things that are disappearing from the earth’

– William Allingham

Born in 1848, Helen Allingham (née Paterson) was a prolific watercolour painter of the Victorian era. At seventeen, she moved to London and enrolled at the Royal Female School of Art and then a year later was accepted into the prestigious Royal Academy School. To support her studies, Allingham found work as a part-time illustrator for magazines and children’s books. In 1870, she became the only female founding member of The Graphic, a new illustrated weekly magazine. By 1872, Allingham had become so successful that she left the Royal Academy School in order to pursue a career as a commercial artist. She did, however, enrol for evening classes at the Slade School of Art, where she met and became friends with Kate Greenaway.

In 1874, Allingham married renowned Irish poet William Allingham, who was 24 years her senior. She soon left her job at The Graphic to concentrate on painting, her true calling. In 1881, the Allinghams left London for Surrey.

In 1888, the Allinghams moved into Eldon House in Hampstead in order to provide their three young children with a good education and to be nearer their London-based friends. Allingham’s husband died the following year from a long illness, leaving her and her children with little money. Allingham was resourceful, however, and travelled to Surrey, Kent, Middlesex and Devon to find unspoilt landscapes and regional and traditional buildings to paint. Her paintings, especially her famous cottage scenes, sold for large sums of money and kept her family afloat.

For more information, please vist the Helen Allingham Society website.

14 Objects by Helen Allingham