When I first began
ego-surfing, building my author platform, the person who showed up 95% of the time was Charlotte Elizabeth Babb (1830- 1906), or rather, a print of an oil painting that she did, The Annunciation. The story of Saint Cecilia depicted in this work was a common theme, amongst the later Pre-Raphaelite painters particularly. Cecilia was a Roman Christian living in the second or third century who wanted to marry the pagan Valerius but had taken a vow of chastity. Valerius agreed to marry her on the condition that he could see the angel who was protecting her. Valerius and his brother were subsequently converted and suffered for this at the hands of the Romans. All three were killed but Saint Cecilia survived for a further three days and gave all her possessions to the poor. The traditional association of music and in particular organ pipes with Saint Cecilia did not arrive until the fifteenth century.
Charlotte worked all her life to gain rights for women, especially the right to vote, and the right to refuse to pay taxes, since women were disenfranchised. In 1866 she signed the petition for women’s suffrage, and on 12 occasions allowed her work to be “distrained and sold in lieu of tax.” In 1871, frustrated by the futility of suffrage petitions she launched a campaign of “no taxation without representation.”. She wrote many leaflets, including “A Word to Women Householders: Practical Protests Political Outcasts,” although she achieved no real following. Several of her friends also refused to pay taxes and started a women’s newspaper. To read more, see The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928 By Elizabeth Crawford
From 1859 Babb campaigned for the admission of women students to the Royal Academy schools, and in 1861 was one of the first to be admitted. She painted all her life and exhibited widely. Very little is published about the life of Charlotte Babb, although she did exhibit consistently at the Dudley Gallery from 1862. The main body of her work is painted in watercolor and comes after the one early oil painting that is her legacy. this may be because the academy thought that women should only paint in watercolor, at least according to Emily Carr, who went to Europe to improve her skills to paint the Native American art she saw in her native Northwest.
Babb was also involved with painting ceramics and consequently became associated with William De Morgan and the aesthetic movement. This tile angel may have been displayed at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago of 1893, as C.E. Babb is listed for Enamel Tile Painting; Angel in the Official Catalogue of the British Section, Royal Commission for the Chicago Exhibition, 1893. Her work is also listed in The Year’s art as exhibiting at The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and Manchester City Art Gallery in 1891. Composed of thirty 6-inch square tiles depicting a haloed angel with flame like wings, standing serenely before a trefoil arch, inscribed in Gothic lettering with verse by John Milton: THEY ALSO SERVE WHO ONLY STAND AND WAIT, signed and indistinctly dated lower left Charlotte E. Babb.
Thank you so much for the information on Charlotte Babb. A few years ago my wife and I bought a box of “prints” in a local auction, one of which I’d spotted as original artwork. It had a label on the back attributing it to a “Charlotte Babb”. Later a valuer informed us that it was a student piece – a pastel sketch of one of a collection of plaster casts kept by the Royal Academy for students to copy. Now you have filled in some of the blanks, we will treasure it still more, knowing that this piece would have been executed while Charlotte was studying at the school she had fought hard for the right to attend.