Georgiana houghton

a 19th century spiritualist painter; someone to research further

there’s a catalog of her work called Catalogue of the Spirit Drawings in Water Colours Exhibited at the New British Gallery, Old Bond Street

interestingly, she lived alone and never married (she lived off an inheritance)

she stopped doing conventional painting after her sister’s death, though she was trained in it.

from Hilma af Klint by Julia Voss:

Meanwhile, across the English Channel, a London gallery showed an exhibition of watercolors by a female medium who claimed to be guided in her work by supernatural beings. The artist, Georgiana Houghton, belonged to an English spiritualist movement with ambitions of transforming society; adherents drew strength from the belief they had higher powers on their side.1 Most visitors to the exhibition did not know what to make of Houghton’s futuristic, abstract art, and it was largely ignored.

We are fortunate that Houghton published a small catalogue for the show titled Catalogue of the Spirit Drawings in Water Colours Exhibited at the New British Gallery, Old Bond Street. “By Miss Houghton” appeared below, with a clarification in smaller print: “Through Whose Mediumship They Have Been Executed.” The catalogue was produced in both simple and deluxe editions. Houghton sent Queen Victoria a copy of the deluxe version featuring pink paper and gold lettering bound in white calfskin.2 Such production values were usually reserved at the time for classics and the Bible.

The comparison to the Bible would not have struck the artist as far-fetched. Houghton’s concerns were artistic and spiritual. She was devout, prayed regularly, and attended Anglican services including those, by her own account, at Westminster Abbey. In this respect, she was an unremarkable Christian. Less usual were the spirits that regularly visited her home. They were not recognized by the Anglican Church, nor did they resemble the chain-rattling ghosts that haunted Gothic novels. Houghton’s spirits were friendly, and they made their presence felt in various ways. At séances that the artist organized with friends, the spirits awed participants, for example, by making a banana suddenly appear, then a watermelon and a coconut. Other times dead people came and touched their living relatives— including Houghton’s own sister, Zilla, who had died young.3 It never seemed to be the apparitions’ aim to frighten their hosts, and sometimes famous historical figures appeared—always with goodwill. According to the descriptions Houghton wrote on the reverse of her drawings, her hand was even occasionally guided by the spirit of great artists such as Titian and Correggio.4

[[ spiritualism and spiritism ]] [[ automatic drawing ]] history [[ historical figures ]]


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