Amongst the exhibits are artworks by the Victorian pioneers of spirit art, including Anna Howitt Watts and arguably Britain’s first abstract painter, Georgiana Houghton as well as their 20th Century counterparts such as Madge Gill and Ethel le Rossignol. Several more inspirational women are celebrated in a room devoted to the female artists who were associated with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, an organisation dedicated to magical studies and practices during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Also on display will be artworks that appeared during the dark séances of the 19th Century and many spirit photographs with their ghostly ectoplasmic apparitions, including one of Abraham Lincoln.
Shown for the first time will be a 1920s scrying mirror that was originally owned by Helen Duncan, a famous Scottish medium and the last person to be imprisoned under the Witchcraft Act of 1735. Another exhibition highlight will be the ‘magic’ table that was presented as evidence by magician John Nevil Maskelyne in the Bow Magistrates Court case of the Spiritualist Henry Slade in 1876. There will also be the welcome return of ‘Vicky’s Ticker’, a gold watch that once belonged to Queen Victoria and was later presented to the medium Etta Wriedt, by the famous journalist W.T Stead, shortly before he perished on the Titanic. It had been stolen in 1962 and was recently returned to the College.
The College of Psychic Studies occupies six floors of a Victorian townhouse in South Kensington, London, close to the Natural History Museum. Its most famous former President is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Spiritualist and creator of the iconic detective Sherlock Holmes. He wrote the History of Spiritualism in 1926 with the help of the College’s library which has a vast collection of esoteric books. These will be available for reference during the exhibition.
For anyone curious about the College of Psychic Studies, during the exhibition, there will be demonstrations, workshops and talks by College tutors and visiting experts. Introductions to tarot, palmistry, mediumship, spirit art and automatic writing are all on offer for ages 18 and above. For a more in depth insight into the College, there will be a tour by the College Historian and a Curator’s tour of the exhibition highlights.
Vivienne Roberts, Curator, says: The idea for ‘Art & Spirit: Visions of Wonder’ arose from my response to every artwork, photograph and artefact in the College’s archive: amazement and admiration of something beautiful, remarkable or unfamiliar. We wanted to share this experience and the exhibition is an opportunity for others to behold the wonder of our remarkable collection.
Gill Matini, the College Principal, says: This exhibition gives visitors a unique opportunity to spend a few hours immersed in another world. Whether you believe in spirit communication or not there is so much to see and learn from a historical, sociological and artistic point of view. Think of it as Hogwarts for adults.
The College of Psychic Studies is an educational charity that began in 1884 under the name of the The London Spiritualist Alliance. As one of the oldest establishments of its kind, the nature of our work has evolved to incorporate a more general and widely-based exploration of consciousness beyond matter. It offers a comprehensive curriculum of courses and workshops as well as lectures and consultations with leading mediums, healers and experts in subjects as diverse as numerology, astrology, tarot and palmistry.