Helen Allingham: Watercolour

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Posted 16th January 2018

The British watercolourist Helen Allingham RWS (1848-1926) is best known for her depictions of rural England.

A ground-breaking woman artist, her extensive career spanned a period of significant social and economic change. Deeply concerned about the preservation of the countryside, Allingham's watercolours are a celebration of cottage architecture and the surrounding rural landscape of the south of England.

In 1874, aged 26, Allingham resigned her post at the Graphic to pursue a career as a painter. The decision to work in watercolour was significantly shaped by her training. The medium had long been promoted for women artists. It was considered innately feminine and easier to work in than oils.

Male artists such as JMW Turner fought to raise the standing of watercolour which was traditionally low in status. The medium began to be considered as a serious method of expression for professional, male artists. However it continued to be seen as an amateur leisure activity for women.

Allingham was one of the few women artists to transcend this gendered division. She began exhibiting at prestigious institutions, including the Royal Academy, from 1875. Her first solo exhibition was held at the Fine Art Society in 1886. In 1890 Allingham became the first woman artist to be elected a full member of the Royal Watercolour Society.

Our exhibition Helen Allingham is on display until Sunday 18 February 2018.