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Heaton, Mary Margaret

    Full Name: Heaton, Mary Margaret

    Other Names:

    • Mrs. Charles Heaton

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 1836

    Date Died: 1883

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): biography (general genre) and Northern Renaissance


    Author of the first biography of Albrecht Dürer in English (1870). Keymer’s father was James Keymer, a silk printer. Her maternal uncle was the writer [Samuel] Laman Blanchard (1803-1845). She was raised among the writers of the 19th-century associated with Blanchard, including the playwright Douglas Jerrold (1803-1857) and Charles Dickens (1812-1870). She married an academic chemist, Charles William Heaton (1835-1893) in 1862. The photographer and publisher Joseph Cundall (1818-1895) encouraged her to write professionally. After an initial work of nursery rhymes in 1862, Heaton published a work of art history, The Great Works of Sir David Wilkie (1868). The Wilkie book included catalogue raisonné and personal memoir of the artist. The following year she published Masterpieces of Flemish Art. In 1870 Heaton wrote the first biography in English of Albrecht Dürer, her History of the Life of Albrecht Dürer to coincide with the artist’s 400th birthdate. Heaton’s book included her personal translation of all the known writings by the artist at the time. Shortly thereafter, William Bell Scott, published his own biography of the artist–borrowing substantially from her translation of Dürer’s journal without acknowledging her–the same year as her book. The caustic Scott attacked her book as “hysterical and prejudiced.” The publisher of the arts journal, The Academy, Charles Appleton (1841 – 1879), invited Heaton to join the staff in 1869, and she became a constant contributor to the periodical whose goal was “sound information and correct taste in intellectual matters.” In 1873 Heaton published A Concise History of Painting, an art survey covering ancient Egyptian to modern Britain. Though the book avoids the anecdotal approach to art history so popular in the 19th century, it unfortunately is little more lists of painters with brief (and somewhat speculative) biographies. With Charles Christopher Black she co-authored Leonardo da Vinci and his Works in 1874. In 1876 she translated the Correggio biography by Julius Meyer. In 1879, she issued a new edition of Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters by Allan Cunningham. She also authored entries for the latest edition of Bryan’s Biographical and Critical Dictionary of Painters and Engravers (3rd edition, 1884-1889). After a protracted illness, she died in 1883.Heaton was among the best of the 19th-century female art historians. As a woman, her formal education and travel to examine primary sources were limited. Nevertheless, she read all the published accounts, mostly German-language, and presented these along with her original translation of the documents into both a popular and important artistic biography. Because she drew primarily the [then current] Romantic-era German historians, her biography of Dürer reflects the biases toward Nationalism and idealism of continental scholarship.

    Selected Bibliography

    and Black, Charles Christopher. Leonardo da Vinci and his Works, Consisting of a Life of Leonardo da Vinci by Mrs. Charles W. Heaton, an Essay on his Scientific and Literary Works by Charles Christopher Black, M.A., and an Account of his Most Important Paintings. London: Macmillan, 1874; translated, edited, with an introduction, Meyer, Julius. Antonio Allegri da Correggio from the German of Dr. Julius Meyer. New York: Macmillan, 1876.


    Eisler, Colin. “Lady Dilke (1840-1904): The Six Lives of an Art Historian.” in, Sherman, Claire Richter and Holcomb, Adele M., eds. Women as Interpreters of the Visual Arts, 1820-1979. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981, pp. 155, and pp. 13-14; Monkhouse, Cosmo. “Mrs. Charles Heaton.” The Academy (9 June 1883): 408-9; Eaton, Frederick A. “Preface.” in Thausing, Moriz. Albert Dürer, his Life and Works. 1882, vol. 1 p. iv; Saturday Review, 35 (1873): 459-61.


    "Heaton, Mary Margaret." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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