21
Jan
16

Exhibition: ‘Julia Margaret Cameron’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Exhibition dates: 28th November 2015 – 21st February 2016

Curator: Marta Weiss, Curator of Photographs at the V&A

 

 

Another exhibition to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) from the same source (the Victoria and Albert Museum) as the exhibition I travelled up to Sydney to review last year.

I am always ecstatic when I see her work, no more so than when I view images that I have not seen before, such as that dark, brooding slightly out of focus portrait of William Michael Rossetti (1865, below) or the profusion of delicate countenances and gazes that is May Day (1866, below).

The piercing gaze of Julia Jackson (1867, below) always astounds, as though she is speaking to you, directly, from life. The r/evolutionary English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin (1868, below) is pictured – no, that’s the wrong word – is materialised before our eyes at the age of 59 (looking much older), through low depth of field, delicate tonality and the defining of an incredible profile that imbues his portrait with the implicit intelligence of the man. I would have loved to have known what he was thinking.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Victoria and Albert Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“I write to ask you if you will… exhibit at the South Kensington Museum a set of Prints of my late series of Photographs that I intend should electrify you with delight and startle the world”

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Julia Margaret Cameron to Henry Cole, 21 February 1866

 

“My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real & Ideal & sacrificing nothing of Truth by all possible devotion to poetry and beauty.”

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Julia Margaret Cameron to Sir John Herschel, 31 December 1864

 

 

 

 

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (possibly in collaboration with Julia Margaret Cameron) 'The Idylls of the Village' or 'The Idols of the Village' c. 1863

 

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander (possibly in collaboration with Julia Margaret Cameron)
The Idylls of the Village or The Idols of the Village
c. 1863
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Annie' January 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Annie
January 1864
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Cameron devoted herself to the medium with energy and ambition. Within a month of receiving the camera she made the photograph she called her ‘first success’, a portrait of Annie Philpot, the daughter of a family staying in the Isle of Wight. Cameron later wrote of her excitement:

‘I was in a transport of delight. I ran all over the house to search for gifts for the child. I felt as if she entirely had made the picture.’

.
From her ‘first success’ she moved on quickly to photographing family and friends. These early portraits reveal how she experimented with soft focus, dramatic lighting and close-up compositions, features that would become her signature style.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Paul and Virginia' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Paul and Virginia
1864
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Peace' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Peace
1864
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Circe' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Circe
1865
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Hosanna' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Hosanna
1865
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Hosanna' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Hosanna
1865
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

“To mark the bicentenary of the birth of Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), one of the most important and innovative photographers of the 19th century, the V&A will showcase more than 100 of her photographs from the Museum’s collection. The exhibition will offer a retrospective of Cameron’s work and examine her relationship with the V&A’s founding director, Sir Henry Cole, who in 1865 presented her first museum exhibition and the only one during her lifetime.

Cameron is one of the most celebrated women in the history of photography. She began her photographic career when she received her first camera as a gift from her daughter at the age of 48, and quickly and energetically devoted herself to the art of photography. Within two years she had sold and given her photographs to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) and in 1868, the Museum granted her the use of two rooms as a portrait studio, likely making her the Museum’s first ‘artist-in-residence’.

150 years after first exhibiting her work, the V&A will present highlights of Cameron’s output, including original prints acquired directly from the artist and a selection of her letters to Henry Cole. Cole’s 1865 diary, in which he records going to Mrs Cameron’s…to have my portrait photographed in her style’ will be on view, along with the only surviving Cameron portrait of Cole. The exhibition will also include the first photograph to be identified of Cameron’s studio. Entitled Idylls of the Village, or Idols of the Village, it was made in about 1863 by Oscar Gustaf Rejlander, possibly in collaboration with Cameron, and depicts two women drawing water from a well in front of the ‘glazed fowl-house’ Cameron turned into her studio. The print has been newly identified and has never before been exhibited.

Best known for her powerful portraits, Cameron also posed her sitters – friends, family and servants – as characters from biblical, historical or allegorical stories. The exhibition will feature a variety of photographic subjects, which Cameron described as ‘Portraits’, ‘Madonna groups’, and ‘Fancy Subjects for Pictorial Effect’. These range from Annie, a close-up of a child’s face that Cameron called her ‘first success’, to striking portraits of members of Cameron’s intellectual and artistic circle such as poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson, scientist Charles Darwin and Julia Jackson, Cameron’s niece and mother of Virginia Woolf. Also on display will be Renaissance-inspired religious arrangements and illustrations to Tennyson’s epic Arthurian poem, Idylls of the King.

Julia Margaret Cameron will be structured around four letters from Cameron to Cole, each demonstrating a different aspect of her development as an artist: her early ambition; her growing artistic confidence and innovation; her concerns as a portraitist and desire to earn money from photography; and her struggles with technical aspects of photography. This final section will offer insight into Cameron’s working methods – an arduous process which involved handling potentially hazardous chemicals. It will include a group of her most experimental photographs, recently discovered to have once belonged to her friend and artistic advisor, the painter and sculptor G.F. Watts. Cameron’s photographs were highly innovative: intentionally out-of-focus, and often including scratches, smudges and other traces of her process. In her lifetime, Cameron was criticised for her unconventional techniques, but also appreciated for the beauty of her compositions and her conviction that photography was an art form.

The exhibition is part of a nationwide celebration of Julia Margaret Cameron’s work during her bicentenary year, including the exhibition Julia Margaret Cameron: Influence and Intimacy at the Science Museum’s Media Space, which displays prints given by Cameron to the astronomer Sir John Herschel, and a series of exhibitions and events at Cameron’s former home, Dimbola Museum and Galleries, on the Isle of Wight.”

Press release from the V&A website

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Whisper of the Muse' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Whisper of the Muse
1865
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Sappho' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Sappho
1865
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'William Michael Rossetti' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
William Michael Rossetti
1865
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'May Day' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
May Day
1866
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Julia Jackson' 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Julia Jackson
1867
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Henry Cole' c. 1868

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Henry Cole
c. 1868
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Charles Darwin' 1868, printed 1875

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Charles Darwin
1868, printed 1875
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Henry Herschel Hay Cameron. 'Julia Margaret Cameron' c. 1870

 

Henry Herschel Hay Cameron
Julia Margaret Cameron
c. 1870
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The Passing of King Arthur' 1874

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Passing of King Arthur
1874
Albumen print
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road
London
SW7 2RL
T: +44 (0)20 7942 2000

Opening hours:
Daily 10.00 – 17.30
Friday 10.00 – 21.30

V&A website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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