Georgiana Houghton’s Spirit Drawings: A Victorian Medium Channels The Eye of God

“Art is a form of nourishment (of consciousness, the spirit)” - Susan Sontag

In the 1860s and 1870s, trained artist, spiritualist and medium Georgiana Houghton (1814-1884) painted kaleidoscopic, psychedelic abstract watercolours, her brush guided by spirits, including angels, family members and Renaissance artists. Houghton called her work “spirit drawings”. On the verso, she wrote inscriptions.

 

Georgiana Houghton, “The Portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ” (December 8, 1862)

Georgiana Houghton, “The Portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ” (December 8, 1862)”

In 1871, Houghton displayed 155 of her artworks in a gallery she’d rented for the purpose on London’s Bond Street. The Era newspaper hailed it as “the most astonishing exhibition in London at the present moment”. The Daily News called the pantings “the most extraordinary and instructive example of artistic aberration”. The Coultaud Gallery adds: “The exhibition proved to be a commercial failure and nearly bankrupted Houghton. Although she continued to make spirit drawings after the exhibition, her ambition of popularising the practice was not realised. Today, less than fifty of her works are known.”

 

Georgiana Houghton, c.1882.

Georgiana Houghton, c.1882.

Georgiana Houghton, The Eye of the Lord (reverse) c.1864. The inscription names Titian as Houghton’s spirit guide

Georgiana Houghton, The Eye of the Lord (reverse) c.1864. The inscription names Titian as Houghton’s spirit guide

Georgiana Houghton, The Flower and Fruit of Henry Lenny, 1861

Georgiana Houghton, The Flower and Fruit of Henry Lenny, 1861

Georgiana Houghton (British, 1814-1884), Flower of Catherine Emily Stringer,

Georgiana Houghton (British, 1814-1884), Flower of Catherine Emily Stringer,

Georgiana Houghton, “The Eye of the Lord” , 'Spirit Drawing' c.1864.

Georgiana Houghton, “The Eye of the Lord” , ‘Spirit Drawing’ c.1864.

Georgiana Houghton ‘Some holy fire’ The Eye of God (25 Sept 1862) the inscription on the reverse names Correggio as Houghton’s spirit guide.

Georgiana Houghton ‘Some holy fire’ The Eye of God (25 Sept 1862) the inscription on the reverse names Correggio as Houghton’s spirit guide.

Spiritual Crown of Mrs A A Watts, 1867

Spiritual Crown of Mrs A A Watts, 1867

Georgiana Houghton , Spirit Drawing . ca 1864

Georgiana Houghton , Spirit Drawing . ca 1864

Reverse of The Eye of the Lord (1 Sept 1870) by Georgiana Houghton.

Reverse of The Eye of the Lord (1 Sept 1870) by Georgiana Houghton.

Glory be to God (c. 1868), Georgiana Houghton.

Glory be to God (c. 1868), Georgiana Houghton.

 ‘Out of time’ ... The Eye of the Lord (1 Sept 1870) by Georgiana Houghton.

‘Out of time’ … The Eye of the Lord (1 Sept 1870) by Georgiana Houghton.

Georgiana Houghton, “The Risen Lord” (June 29, 1864), watercolor and gouache on paper laid on board with pen and ink inscription on the reverse

Georgiana Houghton, “The Risen Lord” (June 29, 1864), watercolor and gouache on paper laid on board with pen and ink inscription on the reverse

Georgiana Houghton, “Flower of Warrand Houghton” (September 18, 1861), watercolur and gouache on paper laid on board with pen and ink inscription on the reverse (click to enlarge)

Georgiana Houghton, “Flower of Warrand Houghton” (September 18, 1861), watercolur and gouache on paper laid on board with pen and ink inscription on the reverse (click to enlarge)

Georgiana Houghton, “The Portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ (reverse)” (December 8, 1862), pen and ink on board (click to enlarge)

Georgiana Houghton, “The Portrait of the Lord Jesus Christ (reverse)” (December 8, 1862), pen and ink on board (click to enlarge)

Via: Courtauld Gallery, Stephen Ellcock