About Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming (1837-1924)

Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming, known to some as 'Eka', was born in Altyre, Morayshire. While visiting her sister in India in 1869, she took the opportunity to travel deep into the Himalayas.

Her visit to India awakened a love of international travel. Her extended trips around the world took her to Fiji, Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand and later China.

She partly supported herself by publishing books of travel writing illustrated with images taken from her own paintings.

The Yosemite Valley

Constance visited the Yosemite Valley in 1878. Despite planning to stay for only three days, she remained there for three months. Captivated by the awe-inspiring beauty of her surroundings, she spent her days climbing hills and compulsively painting views of the valley.

Her visit to Yosemite culminated in an exhibition staged in the valley itself — the first of its kind. Constance's joy and wonderment at the landscape that surrounded her is plain to see; not only in her paintings but also in her writing.

I for one have wandered far enough over the wide world to know a unique glory when I am blessed with one, and the first glimpse of this extraordinary combination of granite crags and stupendous waterfalls showed me plainly enough that it would take me weeks to make acquaintance with them, and that if I fail to do so, I shall regret it all my life …'

'Truly these Californian Alps hold treasures of delight for lovers of all beautiful nature, who on their parts can bring strength and energy for mountaineering — a sure foot, a steady head and any amount of endurance.'

Quote from 'Granite crags' by Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming, 1884.

Artistic career

Constance saw her artwork as a way of recording parts of the world for people who were unable to travel and experience them personally. She was a prolific artist and produced sketches every day.

Many of her completed watercolours were displayed at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition of 1886. She was possibly the most exhibited female artist of her day.

As a committed and passionate artist, Constance took her work very seriously. She was so attached to her paintings that when her homeward-bound ship ran aground at Holyhead she stayed on board until the paintings could also be rescued.

 

Constance Frederica Gordon Cumming