Helen Allingham (née Helen Mary Elizabeth Paterson) (26 September 1848 – 28 September 1926) was an English watercolour painter and illustrator of the Victorian era.1
Helen Mary Elizabeth Paterson was born in Swadlincote in Derbyshire,Victorian England, the daughter of a medical doctor and the eldest of seven children. The family moved to Altrincham in Cheshire when she was one year old. In 1862, at the age of 13, she suffered a tragedy when her father and 3 year-old sister Isabel died of diphtheria, after which the family had to move to Birmingham where Helen's aunts helped provide for them. Her younger sister Caroline Paterson also became a noted artist.
Helen showed a talent for art from an early age, drawing some of her inspiration from her maternal grandmother Sarah Smith Herford and aunt Laura Herford, both accomplished artists of their day. She initially studied art for three years at the Birmingham School of Design (founded 1843), then from 1867 attended the "Female School of Art", a section of which became the Royal College of Art in London.
While studying at the Royal College, Helen worked as an illustrator, eventually deciding to give up her studies in favour of a full-time career in art. She painted for children's and adult books, including a prestigious commission to illustrate Thomas Hardy's "Far from the madding crowd" and for periodicals, including The Graphic newspaper. She became a lifelong friend of Kate Greenaway whom she met at evening art classes at the Slade School of Fine Art.
On 22 August 1874 she married William Allingham, Irish poet and editor of Fraser's Magazine, who was almost twice her age. After her marriage she gave up illustration and turned to watercolour painting.
In 1881 the family moved from Chelsea to Witley in Surrey. Helen started to paint the beautiful countryside around her and particularly the picturesque farmhouses and cottages of Surrey and Sussex for which she became famous. She went on to paint rural scenes in other parts of the country - Middlesex, Kent, the Isle of Wight and the West Country - and abroad in Venice, Italy. As well as landscapes, she completed several portraits, including one of Thomas Carlyle. She became the first woman to be admitted as a full member of the Royal Watercolour Society.
There is a Helen Allingham Society, founded in 2000.
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