Revisiting Kate Perugini: An appreciation of an overlooked Victorian painter 

Painting of Kate Perugini by Charles Edward Perugini
Image Credit: Painting of Kate Perugini by Charles Edward Perugini

In 2006, I published a biography about a little-remembered artist, Kate Perugini. Had she worked under her maiden name, it is likely she would still be remembered, and talked about, today — because Katey (as she was known in her family) was the daughter of Charles and Catherine Dickens.

As ‘Kate Perugini’, her art has been largely ignored or forgotten about, a typical fate of Victorian female artists. Her male peers, many of whom were considered less accomplished than she during their lifetimes, are still talked about today, including her friends Marcus Stone and Valentine Prinsep. Stone has a commemorative blue plaque on his former home in Holland Park, and both men have their works displayed in big public galleries. I often ponder about whether a painting signed by Katey Dickens would be snapped up at auction by a gallery today, while a painting signed with Kate Perugini’s simple ‘KP’ monogram is overlooked by all except the most ardent aficionados of Dickensian history or Victorian portraiture.

Unfortunately, a mix up with ISBNs made finding the book something of a challenge for booksellers and readers alike, but those avid readers, galleries and bookshop owners who searched for Katey and managed to get hold of the book (for which I was very grateful to the internet) began to ask me to do talks and events. Then letters and emails began to arrive from people who had read the book, sometimes sending me new information about Katey’s work. Several people who contacted me wanted to tell me that, having read the book, they now realised they owned one of her paintings. Many of these had remained in the families who had originally commissioned the portraits all those years earlier. Katey signed the majority of her paintings simply with her initials, which can often make it difficult to discover the identity of the artist. […]

First published on 27th August 2018. Read full article on the Royal Literary Fund website.