Helen Corson Hovenden

Life Dates

Helen Corson Hovenden was born in Whitemarsh township to George and Martha Corson. First attending the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design), Corson traveled alone to Paris in 1875 to study painting at the Académie Julian. She lived  there for five years with family friends, and during that time met her future husband, artist Thomas Hovenden. The couple returned to the United States in 1880 and married a year later. From 1881 to 1895, they used the Corson family barn—located near Woodmere at the intersection of Germantown Pike and Butler Pike—as their studio; the barn still stands at the site, and is known as Abolition Hall, since, in the days of the artist’s youth, it had been a stop on the Underground Railroad. She and her parents (who were founding members of Plymouth Meeting’s Quaker community) were active in the anti-slavery movement.

Corson was known in Philadelphia as a painter who specialized in portraits of family pets, birds, and flowers. She may have painted the dog in her husband’s famous work, Breaking Home Ties (1890), in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Family members have described that the same much-loved, family dog is depicted in both paintings.

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