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georgiana houghton : invisible friends @ art gallery of new south wales


‘‘ I must explain that in the  execution of the drawings my hand has been entirely guided by spirits, no idea being formed in my own mind as to what was going to be traduced nor did I know, when a stroke commenced, whether it would be carried upwards or downwards.‘‘

The rise of spiritualism in Victorian era London was fired by a reaction to rationalism, dogmatic Christianity and patriarchal culture. For Horton, spiritualism enabled a closer relationship to God, while art enabled the creative expression of the bond between the visible world and the invisible realm..

The drawings were produced in London during the 1860s and 1870s. Prefiguring the abstract modernism of artists like Kandinsky by 50 years, Houghton created her visionary drawings with the help of invisible friends – long dead artists, family, friends and angels – and declared them to be works of art without parallel in the world.

Houghton who likely trained as an artist in France, firmly resisted any implication that relinquished all creative control when a guide told her she was only a machine, Horton reminded him personally “that I had taught him much about modern colours I could add and I could always leave off when I pleased.”

As well as angelic beings, several Houghton guides were identified as famous artists including Correggio,Titian and Thomas Lawrence

Houghton recorded her collaborations with the spirits on the back of her works, establishing a bond between image and text.

Today, 35 of Houghton ‘s 46 works extant in the world are in the care of the Victorian Spiritualist union, their facsimiles adorning a church in North Melbourne as a physical manifestation of Spirit.

The exhibition  GEORGIANA HOUGHTON ‘INVISIBLE FRIENDS’ is on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until the  10th March 2024.

Featured image : Georgiana Houghton ‘The flower of Helen Butler 1861, courtesy of the Victorian Spiritualists’ Union Inc, Melbourne, Australia.


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