Helen Allingham: Cult of the Cottage

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Posted 19th December 2017

Helen Allingham was one of a growing band of environmentalists, spearheaded by John Ruskin and William Morris, to be concerned with the impact of social and economic change on the rural landscape. As old houses were destroyed, either by unsympathetic restoration or demolition, Allingham was determined to preserve rural architecture in paint.

While historic architectural features are recorded with rigorous accuracy Allingham would deploy significant artistic licence, replacing modern renovations with historic alternatives. Roofs would be re-thatched and diamond lattice windows restored if she believed they were once there. Outbuildings, extensions or dormer windows were removed. The surrounding landscape was similarly revised. Church towers and neighbouring rooftops were painted out to heighten the impression of rural isolation.

Promoting rural preservation on a national scale, Allingham's first solo exhibition, ' Surrey Cottages' at the Fine Art Society in 1886, successfully established her reputation as the cottage painter.

Work in Focus

Feeding the Fowls, Pinner, 1890, watercolour. Royal Watercolour Society

Allingham depicted this fourteenth-century farmhouse from a number of different perspectives, ensuring that every architectural feature is preserved in paint.