During the Victorian period, spiritualism emerged as the belief that contact with the spiritual realm was possible and that such communication would bring one closer to God. Georgiana Houghton, a trained artist as well as a medium, allegedly used drawing as a method of channelling and expressing communications with spirit entities.
During the 1860s and 1870s, she produced a series of abstract watercolours as part of her practice. She called these her ‘spirit drawings’. They are remarkably complex, layered watercolours with a high technical capability. Rather unusually, she uses striking masculine colours and bold gestures which can become deeply absorbing when trying to take in the smaller details. Even more compelling are the inscriptions on the back of the works declaring that her hand was guided by various spirits, including family members, famous Renaissance artists, such as Titian and Correggio and higher angelic beings.
More than twenty of her works are hanging in the gallery. The exhibition forms part of the Gallery’s summer showcase programme, which considers unusual episodes or overlooked questions in the history of art. It is well worth a stop-off and a muse-over the place of these pieces within the history of art; both as products of their times and as precursors of radical twentieth century art.
The Courtauld Gallery
16 June – 11 September 2016
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