One of the delights of researching lots that we will be selling at auction is when they turn up a previously unknown or long-forgotten connection. Sometimes, the bare bones of the story are known, but teasing out the details makes it all the more fun.
In recent years we have been fortunate enough to offer a number of superb works by Helen Allingham, a Victorian and Edwardian artist whose wonderful cottage scenes have remained as popular and valuable as ever, even as the general trend for Victorian art has been static or downward when it comes to popularity and price.
One of the reasons that Allingham has proved such a feature here is that she lived and died in the area.
Having married William Allingham, the Irish poet and Editor of Fraser’s Magazine, in 1874, she gave up her career as an illustrator and turned her hand, instead, to watercolours. Seven years later they moved from Chelsea to Witley. Inspired by the surrounding countryside, along with its cottages and farmhouses, she never looked back. She died in Haslemere in 1926.
The first woman admitted as a full member of the Royal Watercolour Society, Allingham was occasionally subjected to the criticism that her compositions were overly sentimental. Sentimental, yes; overly sentimental? Not in my view. Anyway, she had the last laugh, as the market now shows.
However, my favourite discovery about her was that while working as an illustrator, she caught the eye of a struggling young artist who took inspiration from her work. His name? Vincent Van Gogh.