Georgiana Houghton (1814-1884) developed skills as a medium after attending her first séance in 1859 and achieved her first spirit drawing in 1861. For the next decade, under the guidance of a spirit called Henry Lenny and 70 Archangels, she produced 155 extraordinary water colour drawings.
Georgiana began each piece without preconception of the outcome. She filled each sheet of paper with woven swirls of vibrant colours forming an intricate layering of hues and tints. Amongst her circle of friends and fellow Spiritualists she soon became recognised as a pioneer of spirit art.
To reach a wider audience and hopefully inspire others to become Spiritualists and develop their own gift as spirit artists, Georgiana single-handedly mounted a solo exhibition which took place from May-September in 1871 at the New British Gallery in Old Bond Street, London.
The exhibition attracted many visitors, some of whom were shocked by the previously unseen abstract forms. Although the show was applauded by several traditional artists, it generally received mixed reviews. By the end of the exhibition only one sale had been made, possibly because the work was seen as too modern for the tastes of Victorian England, or perhaps due to the exorbitant prices placed on the pieces by Georgiana. Either way the end result was that the show was a financial disaster for the artist.
Given that Georgiana appears to have anticipated the abstract art of artists such as Kandinsky by half a century it is surprising that she has been largely ignored by art historians for over a century. However this is slowly changing and with the current re-evaluation by scholars and curators it looks likely that she will soon be recognised as not only a pioneer of spirit art, but modern art as well.