Artist illustrated Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd and was the first woman admitted as a full member of the Royal Watercolour Society
A beautiful painting by the Victorian watercolourist Helen Allingham entitled Buckinghamshire house at Penstreet is estimated to sell for £10,000-15,000 in Bonhams 19th Century Pictures auction on 13th July 2011.
The idyllic rural scene shows a wisteria covered cottage with washing drying on the hedge, a woman and child at the gate and chickens pecking in the foreground. It is one of the 55 watercolours by Allingham that were acquired by Sir Owen Aisher between 1947 and 1970. Sir Owen was particularly interested in the building materials so faithfully reproduced by the artist and was chairman of Marley Ltd, hence the name of the collection, which was sold at Christie’s in 1991.
For many years, part of this building at Penstreet was occupied by George and Catherine Randall and their daughter Annie. George was a blacksmith and it was there he had his forge. In the early years of the 20th century the house caught fire causing considerable damage, but it was rebuilt and still stands today.
Allingham is more recognised for her paintings of Sussex cottages and buildings. Her Buckinghamshire subjects are rarer and it is thought that she completed no more than half a dozen, dating from circa 1900.
In 1867 Allingham entered the Royal Academy schools, and she provided the illustrations for Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd as well as other books. In 1874 she married the renowned Irish poet and editor of Fraser’s Magazine, William Allingham. The family moved to Surrey in 1881 and she began to paint the beautiful landscapes of the surrounding countryside in Surrey and Sussex. She was a prolific artist and is well known for scenes such as this which focus on picturesque cottages in rural landscapes. She was the first woman to be admitted as a full member of the Royal Watercolour Society.
Charles O’Brien, Head of 19th Century Pictures at Bonhams, comments, “Although Helen Allingham’s work appears at auction on a fairly regular basis, this is a lovely example. It is strong in colour and substantial in size, and displays all the elements that have made Allingham one of the most sought after late Victorian watercolour painters and undoubtedly the master of this particular genre.”