According to Martin Hardie, Helen Allingham, whose maiden name was Helen Paterson, was born near Burton-on-Trent and trained at the Birmingham School of Design and the Royal Academy Schools. Strongly influenced by Birket Foster and Fred Walker, she “closely followed” (111) Foster's methods. After she married the Irish poet William Allingham in 1874, Hardie explains, she became a member of the
literary circle which included Carlyle, Ruskin, Rossetti, Browning and Tennyson. She was elected as associate of the Royal Water-Colour Society in 1875 and, when women for the first time were admitted to membership in 1890, was at once raised to full rank. Her pictures of cottages and gay gardens, green lanes, sunny hillsides and woodlands were a little idealised but had their integrity and were immensely popular. Looking at her work it is difficult to realise that she used nine colours only, five of them being yellows: her palette, as given to [Marcus] Huish, consisted of cobalt, rose madder, aureolin, yellow ochre, raw sienna, sepia, permanent yellow, light red and orange cadmium. In "The Art of England" 1884, Ruskin placed her name with that of Kate Greenaway at the head of his lecture on Fairy Land and specified as her true gift the representation of "the gesture, character, and humour of charming children in country landscapes."
Hardie quotes W. Graham Robertson's praise of her “lovely little transcripts of the Surrey Lanes and woodlands, of the school of Birket Foster — but, to me, fresher, more fragrant and close to Nature than the work of the elder painter — . . . delights to the eye and lasting memorials of the fast-vanishing beauty of our countryside.. . . few painters have ever penetrated so close to the soul of the English country" (Hardie 112).
Hardie, Martin. Water-colour Painting in Britain. III. The Victorian Period. Ed. Dudley Snelgrove with Jonathan Mayne and Basil Taylor. London: R. T. Batsford, 1968.
"Modern British Water Colour Drawings." The Studio [London] 22 (1900): 3-90.
Last modified 26 February 2012