Christiana Herringham

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a detail: original left, copy by Lady Herringham (1915) right

Christiana Jane Herringham (Lady Herringham) (1852–1929) was a British artist, copyist, and art patron. She is noted for her part in establishing the National Art Collections Fund in 1903 to help preserve Britain's artistic heritage.

She was the daughter of Thomas Wilde Powell, a wealthy patron of the Arts and Crafts Movement. In 1880 she married the physician Wilmot Herringham, (later Sir Wilmot Herringham) with whom she had two sons. She was committed to women's suffrage from 1889 onwards.

A talented artist and copyist of Old Masters, she dedicated herself to the revival of tempera painting, translating Cennino Cennini's 15th century treatise Il libro dell' arte o trattato della pittura in 1899 and founding the Society of Painters in Tempera in 1901.

In 1910, Herringham became involved in the promotion of Indian Art in the UK through her friendship with William Rothenstein. Ernest Havell and Rothenstein formed the India Society and Herringham joined the committee. She was the only female committee member at the time. The Society would often meet at her home at 40 Wimpole Street in London, which was later destroyed during the Blitz. Her husband became Chair of the India Society committee in 1914.

Following the formation of the Society, Herringham returned to the Ajanta caves with Rothenstein. She set up a camp with the help of the Nizam of Hyderabad, and with several artists set about copying the frescoes. It should also be noted that Herringham was a committed suffragette. In 1914, she returned to the UK but was beset by ill health until her death in Sussex in 1929.

As part of her work for the India Society, she travelled to India in 1906 and 1911 and made copies of the Buddhist cave paintings at Ajanta near Hyderbad, which were deteriorating badly. Among the visitors who observed her work was William Rothenstein. An exhibition of the copies opened at the Crystal Palace in London in June 1911. Herringham, however, had begun to suffer from delusions of pursuit and persecution and was admitted to an asylum. She spent the rest of her life in mental institutions.

Her biographer Mary Lago suggests Christiana Herringham may have been the inspiration for Mrs Moore in E.M. Forster's novel A Passage to India.

References[edit]

Mary Lago. Christiana Herringham and the Edwardian Art Scene, University of Missouri Press, 1995 IISBN 978-0-8262-1024-1

Mary Lago. "Herringham, Christiana Jane, Lady Herringham (1852–1929)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Sept 2004

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