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Georgina Ball Hughes

    Georgina Ball Hughes (1829-1911) and her sister, Augusta Ball Hughes (1832-1914), were daughters of Robert and Eliza Ball Hughes.  According to the Census of 1900 record for Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Georgina was born in New York in September 1829, not 1828 as previously reported in an art biography. She apparently was a honeymoon baby, conceived on the long ocean voyage on the ship Robert Edwards since the Ball Hughes arrived in New York on January 19, 1829.

    I have no reason to doubt the census record as the information was provided to the census-taker by Georgina, the owner and resident of the Ball Hughes house, Sunnyside, at 1 School Street.  September 1829 to June 1900 is 70 years, the same as Georgina's reported age as of the Census on June 1, 1900, so the record is consistent.

    Georgina was well known as an accomplished painter who exhibited at the Boston Art Assn. in 1843, the Boston Art Club in 1873 and 1877, and at the Royal Academy in London in 1889 (when she lived at 5 Lyndhurst Rd., Hampsted).  Her Mother, Eliza, also exhibited 4 drawings with her at the Boston Art Club in 1873.

    Georgina also taught drawing for many years in the public high school in Brookline, MA.  An entry on p. 8 of the Treasurer's Report of The Town of Brookline for the year ending Feb. 1, 1868 shows Georgina B. Hughes was paid $300 for teaching drawing.  Brookline is about 4 miles away from Dorchester. Note that $300 in 1867 would be equivalent to about $3,900 in 2008 according to the calculator on Measuringworth.com.

    The New York Times had an interesting article about the plight of women teachers in The Salaries of Public School Teachers The New York Times, April 4, 1867.  Georgina was fortunate to have the support of her family.

    In 1866, at the urging of her mother, Georgina purchased the family home, Sunnyside, in  Dorchester, MA.  Robert and Eliza continued to live there, probably with Georgina at times. She spent much of her time (reportedly 23 years) in London, England working as an accomplished artist.  Georgina never married and died in the home in 1911.

    It's interesting that in 1900, after owning the home for about 34 years since purchasing it in 1866, she still had a mortgage on it as recorded in the Census of 1900 record for Suffolk County, Massachusetts that includes the residents on School St., in Dorchester. Maybe long mortgage terms were common at the time to keep the payments low. It's also interesting that at age 70 (as of June 1, 1900), Georgina did not consider herself unemployed. Retirement, as we know it today, is a relatively new phenomenon.

    The Ball Hughes Family entered The Sixth Exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association at Faneuil and Quincy Halls in the City of Boston September, 1850.

Under the Fine Arts category on p. 144:

“252. Miss Georgiana Ball Hughes, Dorchester, Mass. One frame Crayon Drawing. Excellent. This young lady seems to inherit talent, naturally.”

Reading down the page, we find that her sister, Augusta, also entered the competition (and maybe their Mother, Eliza).

“1212. Mrs. A. Ball Hughes, Dorchester, Mass. One frame Crayon Drawing.”

I believe this may have been a misprint and could have been Mrs. E. Ball Hughes, Roberts' wife unless Augusta entered two drawings (see below).


“1213. Mrs. A. Ball Hughes, Dorchester, Mass. One frame Crayon Drawing. Very creditable for an amateur”

    I believe this may have been a misprint since Augusta didn't marry B. F. Brown until 1852 and went by Augusta Ball Brown according to one source.  I think this should have said "Miss A. Ball Hughes."  Augusta is known to have been an amateur artist from sketches passed down in the Brown Family.

    My rationale is that both entries are in error since there is no Mrs. A. Ball Hughes.  They could both be Mrs. E. Ball Hughes or both be Miss A. Ball Hughes or one is Mrs. E. Ball Hughes and one is Miss A. Ball Hughes, I'm guessing the later.

And on p.147:

“1214. (Robert) Ball Hughes, Dorchester, Mass. Specimens of Statuary—Fisher Boy, and Oliver Twist. Excellent, both. The Committee consider the last named to be, in conception and feeling, one of the best specimens of modern statuary which they have ever seen. Gold Medal.”

    One newspaper article says that Georgina was seen in Pairs, by a visitor from Boston, copying Callet's The Triumph of Flora painting at the Louvre in 1870.    

    A New York Times article Americans in London dated February 27, 1871, lists Mrs. (Eliza) Ball Hughes and Miss (Georgiana) Ball Hughes as being in London for the week ending Feb. 4, 1871.  Mrs. Ball Hughes could have painted The English Gypsies in London while she was visiting with her daughter, Georgina.

    She was also quoted in article about Ball Hughes in the (Boston) Sunday Globe in March 1907 as saying that "my copy of a Turner (William Turner or more likely J. M. W. Turner, RA) won from the artist high words of praise and an invitation to luncheon.  Pro  [Prof.] Ruskin also went out of his way to praise my work... But my chief work is miniature painting, and in this peculiarly difficult line of artistic labor I have met with most gratifying success." John Ruskin (1819-1900) was unanimously appointed the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University in August 1869.

    According to the Wikipedia entry for RuskinRuskin authored Modern Painters (1843), an extended essay in defens of the work of J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) in which he argued that the principal role of the artist is "truth to nature". "Ruskin admired deeply the ... illustrations by J. M. W. Turner, and much of his art in the 1830s was in imitation of Turner, and Samuel Prout (1783-1852)." Eliza Ball Hughes mentioned in the Letter to Mr. Casey that she had a sketch given to her by Prout. John Ruskin was a friend of J. M. W. Turner and Samuel Prout.

    Georgina was an Instructor of Art at the South Kensington School in Central London. This was previously unknown until a reference about one of her students was found. The South Kensington School became the Royal College of Art (RCA) in 1896.

    Georgina painted the Mia Bella Portrait in London in 1876 and painted a copy of the Col. John Trumbull portrait of her father. We know from Georgina's Mia Bella portrait that her name was spelled Georgina and not Georgiana or Georgianna, as recorded in some references.

    According to independent scholar, Catherine Lanford Joy, who is doing research into the life and work of Roswell Gleason who ran a significant Britannia and silverplate manufactory on Washington Street during the time that Ball Hughes lived down the street:

"There is another family story that Georgina Hughes painted the Gleason house (known as "Lilacs") in the late 19th century after it experienced a fire (after which it was moved to Claybourne Street and expanded). Gleason's house was taken down after a second fire in the early 1980s.  Two rooms from it are about to installed as period rooms in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.”

    An interview with Georgina Ball Hughes is recorded in the article Boston’s Forgotten Sculptor. A handwritten note on the newspaper clipping says it’s from the (Boston) Sunday Globe, 31 March ’07.

See the Paintings by Ball Hughes webpage and Roswell Gleason article by the Dorchester Atheneum for more information about Ball Hughes neighbor.

    Georgina made numerous trips to London where she lived and worked for many years. She was listed on the passenger list for the steamship SS Cephalonia that departed from Liverpool, England on Mar. 28, 1884 (or 1889?) and arrived in Boston on April 8 [?]. The trip took about 11 days (7-8 days would have been considered fast). Someone gave me this information and there is a conflict in the year. The only reference to March 28th for a departure was in 1889, not 1884.

    The Cephalonia was a 5,517 ton ship that was built in 1882 for the Cunard Line. She had accommodations for 200-1st and 1500-3rd class passengers and a length of 430 ft., a beam of 46 ft., one funnel, 3 masts and a speed of 14 knots. See the Scene aboard SS Cephalonia painted by Sears Gallagher (of Lynn,MA) in 1895. This ship was quite different from the ship Robert Edwards that brought the Robert and Eliza Ball Hughes to America in 1829. That voyage took 10 weeks!

SS  Cephalonia

1888 SS Cephalonia
by William Pierce Stubbs

Obituary for Georgina Ball Hughes


 Obituary from Local Paper


A condensed obituary is found in the Death Notice below:

Miss Georgina Ball-Hughes Death Notice in NY Times October 11, 1911.   Full text:

“Miss Georgina Ball-Hughes

BOSTON, Oct. 10. (1911) – Miss Georgina Ball-Hughes, daughter of the late Robert Ball-Hughes, the artist and sculptor, died today in Dorchester, aged 83 years. The old homestead where she lived ever since she was 10, is more than 200 years old. Here was entertained the noted men and women in the world of art and letters of her father’s time, including Charles Dickens. Miss Ball-Hughes studied in Europe and did much original work. Her copies of famous paintings received commendation from critics. She had lived much of her time in London, and was a member of the Catholic Apostolic Church sect.”

    Note that she did not live in Sunnyside since she was 10 because the Ball Hughes' only moved there in 1851.  She lived there since about age 22.

    Her obituary states that she was 83 when she died in October 1911. She would have been 82 years old if she was born in September 1829 instead of 1828. Perhaps the writer also had the wrong year of birth.

More info: “Who Was Who in American Art” and "Dictionary of Women Artists" by Chris Petteys, G. K. Hall & Co., 1985

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last update 3/28/2012

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