Anna Mary Howitt
Anna Mary Howitt (married name Anna Mary Watts, 15 January 1824 – 23 July 1884) was an English painter, writer and feminist. Her artistic activity ceased in 1857 after she suffered a mental breakdown, but she soon resumed her writing.
Artist and feminist
Anna Mary Howitt was the eldest surviving child of the prolific Quaker writers and publishers William Howitt (1792–1879) and Mary Botham (1799–1888). She was born in Nottingham, but spent much of her childhood in Esher. Howitt showed early talent and entered Henry Sass's Art Academy in London in 1846, where her contemporaries included William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Thomas Woolner. She then accompanied her fellow artist Jane Benham to Munich, where she studied under Wilhelm von Kaulbach. She also began to publish articles about the city that were later collected into An Art-Student in Munich (1853), as well as serialised stories with her own illustrations, which appeared in the Illustrated Magazine of Art (1853–54).
An Art-Student in Munich was a success. According to The New York Times (11 May 1854), "All that is peculiar to Munich, – its museums, galleries, festivals, and works of art, – or to German life, whether in high or low degree, and still more to the cultivation of the artist, is told in these pages with a beautiful earnestness and a naive simplicity, that have a talismanic effect upon the reader. It is one of those sunny works which leave a luminous trail behind them in the reader's memory." Howitt was under twin influences at this stage in her life, being "connected on the one hand with the social and publishing circles of her parents, the hard-working pillars of the London literary establishment, and on the other hand with a group of forward-looking, feminist women of her own age."
The younger group with whom Howitt associated consisted of the Langham Place feminists, notably her close friend the artist Barbara Leigh Smith. The pair joined Rossetti's Folio Club. Howitt made her exhibition debut at the National Institution of Fine Arts in 1854, with a painting inspired by Goethe's Faust. Her painting The Castaway (Royal Academy, 1855) was unusual in depicting a woman who has sunk into prostitution. In 1856 she helped Leigh Smith to collect signatures for a petition that would lead to the Married Women's Property Act 1870. Criticism of her work from John Ruskin, rejection of a major painting by the Royal Academy, and the marriage of her friend Leigh Hunt contributed to a mental breakdown in 1857, after which she ceased to be an active artist.
Writer and spiritualist
In 1859, Howitt married a childhood friend, the revenue officer Alaric Alfred Watts and moved with him to Chelsea. They shared literary ambitions that resulted in Aurora: a Volume of Verse (1884). This reflected a new-found interest in spiritualism, to which her parents had turned in the early 1850s, as did her book Pioneers of the Spiritual Reformation (1883), which consisted of biographical sketches of the German poet Justinus Kerner and of her father William Howitt, but whose other purpose was to promote spiritualism, Mesmerism and similar phenomena. Some contemporaries suggested that she suffered from periodic mental illness in later life.
Howitt's family was acquainted with the novelist Charles Dickens, who offered critical commentary on her writing.
- English women painters from the early 19th century who exhibited at the Royal Academy of Art
- Sophie Gengembre Anderson
- Mary Baker
- Ann Charlotte Bartholomew
- Maria Bell
- Barbara Bodichon
- Joanna Mary Boyce
- Margaret Sarah Carpenter
- Fanny Corbaux
- Rosa Corder
- Mary Ellen Edwards
- Harriet Gouldsmith
- Mary Harrison (artist)
- Jane Benham Hay
- Mary Moser
- Martha Darley Mutrie
- Ann Mary Newton
- Emily Mary Osborn
- Kate Perugini
- Louise Rayner
- Ellen Sharples
- Rolinda Sharples
- Rebecca Solomon
- Elizabeth Emma Soyer
- Isabelle de Steiger
- Henrietta Ward
- Elmbridge Hundred biography Retrieved 9 July 2011. Archived 23 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
- ODNB entry: Retrieved 9 July 2011. Subscription required.
- Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- Orlando Project introduction. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- The text of the petition appears here: Retrieved 9 July 2011. Archived 2 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
- Minnesota History 50 (Spring 1987): 204–98: Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- Black-and-white reproduction of AMH's 1849 portrait of fellow artist John Banvard (1815–1891): Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- The text of An Art-Student in Munich online: Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- The text of The Children's Year by Mary Howitt, illustrated by her daughter Anna Mary Howitt: Retrieved 9 July 2011.
- A chapter on Anna Mary Howitt's travels in Munich in Heidi Liedke: The Experience of Idling in Victorian Travel Texts, 1850–1901. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018 Retrieved 17 August 2018.