Archive for the 'painting' Category

18
May
18

Exhibition: ‘Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London Part 2

Exhibition dates: 1st March – 20th May 2018

Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography is curated by Phillip Prodger PhD, Head of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Poster for the exhibition 'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography' at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Poster for the catalogue for the exhibition Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Oh Clementina! the light, the stars!

There is enough text in the posting for me not to really have to say anything. It’s all there…

Art, influence, technology;
Classical, formal, diaristic;
Intimacy, mystery, atmospheric;
Motherhood, sexuality, feminist identity, nascent womanhood;
‘Profil perdu’ (French, ‘lost profile’, which refers to a portrait in which the profile cannot be seen), mirror, loss, duplication and replication, illusion, and fetish

… all woven into a performative, psychological, expressive and creative (self) portraiture.

The real stars of the show are most definitely the women… the avant-garde artists of their era.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the National Portrait Gallery, London for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

This major exhibition is the first to examine the relationship between four ground-breaking Victorian artists: Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79), Lewis Carroll (1832-98), Lady Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) and Oscar Rejlander (1813-75). Drawn from public and private collections internationally, the exhibition features some of the most breath-taking images in photographic history. Influenced by historical painting and frequently associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the four artists formed a bridge between the art of the past and the art of the future, standing as true giants in Victorian photography.

 

 

“The women are the real stars of this exhibition. Their pictures are bolder and bigger, more imaginative and more daring. They portray people with a raw reality that is not just the result of the collodion method but a powerful, visionary insight.

Hawarden’s pictures of Victorian women have an intimacy that transcends time and a mystery that asserts the autonomy of her subjects. They are feminist, and gothic too, in their eerie atmosphere. In an 1863-4 picture called ‘Photographic Study’, she poses a young woman by a mirror so that we see her twice. The “real” woman is in brooding profile while her reflection is a shadowy full-face image. The effect is spookily absorbing as we become witnesses to her melancholic introspection.

Hawarden’s ultra-sharp yet shadow-rich prints create unresolved stories featuring women free to show who they really are. None of them look happy. All are curiously defiant – these pictures anticipate those of the 1970s US artist Francesca Woodman. As portraits of women created by women, these Victorian photographers’ subversive creations have almost no precedents.

Not that Cameron looked to the handful of earlier women artists as models. She was trying to be a new Rembrandt: her portraits consciously compete with the masterpieces of the baroque age. While the painted portraits of male Victorian artists such as John Everett Millais and George Frederic Watts are period pieces at best, her great 1866 photograph Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty (Mrs Keene) with its subtle mix of resolution and suggestiveness brings us face to face with someone whose eyes hold ours and whose mind is as real to us as her tangled hair. There is a sensitivity to the magic of being human in Cameron’s portraits that makes her the greatest British artist of her time. This exhibition puts her in a brilliantly delineated context of experiment and imagination, the first avant-garde artist of the camera.”

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Extract from Jonathan Jones. “Victorian Giants: the Birth of Art Photography review – the triumph of the female gaze,” on The Guardian website Friday 2 March 2018

 

 

 

 

Clementina Hawarden

Her life cruelly cut short by pneumonia at the age of forty-two, Clementina Maude, Viscountess Hawarden produced some 800 photographs in her lifetime, nearly all are of her eight children posed in poignant tableaux. She began to photograph on her family’s estate, outside Tipperary, around 1857, later moving to Princes Gardens, London, near Hyde Park. Frequently compared to Cameron, she was much admired by Carroll, and on her death, Rejlander wrote her obituary. (Wall text)

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“I
n that vein, the greatest discovery in the exhibition is a thrillingly strange image by Hawarden, to my mind always the most intriguing photographer of the four. Hawarden was a Scottish countess who had ten children. She photographed all of her daughters repeatedly, and there were so many of them it’s hard to keep track. Her photographs, which are often classical in their formal qualities, nevertheless anticipate the diaristic work of the 20th century photographers Sally Mann and Nan Goldin. They often contain more than one girl, and often feature mirrors, so that everything is about multiplication or reflection – an effect that might also be seen as a form of self-portraiture in the mother of so many.” (Gaby Wood)

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Her photographic years were brief but prolific. Hawarden produced over eight hundred photographs between 1857 and her sudden death in 1864. During this time she gave birth to three of her eight children. Lady Hawarden’s photographic focus remained on her children. There is only one photograph believed to feature the Viscountess Hawarden, yet it could also be a portrait of her sister Anne Bontine.

A collection of 775 portraits were donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in 1939 by Hawarden’s granddaughter, Clementina Tottenham. The photographs were torn, or cut, from family albums for reasons that are still unclear. This accounts for the torn or trimmed corners which are now considered a hallmark of Hawarden’s work.

Carol Mavor writes extensively about the place of Hawarden’s work in the history of Victorian photography as well as contemporary interpretations of the work. She states, “Hawarden’s pictures raise significant issues of gender, motherhood, and sexuality as they relate to photography’s inherent attachments to loss, duplication and replication, illusion, fetish.” (Mavor, Carol (1999). Becoming: the photographs of Clementina, Viscountess Hawarden (1st ed.). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.) (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study, 5 Princes Gardens (Clementina Maude)' 1863-1864

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study, 5 Princes Gardens (Clementina Maude)
1863-1864
from The Photographic Study Series by Clementina, Lady Hawarden
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Given by Lady Clementina Tottenham
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

“Although her work has often been linked to that of Julia Margaret Cameron, the best known woman photographer of the Victorian epoch, Clementina Hawarden struck out into areas and depicted moods unknown to the art photographers of her age.” ~ Graham Ovenden 1974

 

This remarkable photograph shows a woman gazing into a mirror, but not at her own reflection. Instead, the picture was carefully arranged so that the woman’s face is seen in profile, while only her reflection looks back out of the mirror. Hawarden excelled at producing ambiguous narrative photographs such as this one, suggesting the rich inner life of the subject, without telling a clear story. The heroes of her pictures are nearly always women, who seem all but trapped in domestic interiors. (Wall text)

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study (Clementina Maude)' early 1860s

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study (Clementina Maude)
early 1860s
Albumen print from wet collodion negative
20.1 x 14.4 cm (7 15/16 x 5 11/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005
© Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Clementina, Lady Hawarden, is a poetic, if elusive, presence among nineteenth-century photographers. As a devoted mother, her life revolved around her eight children. She took up photography in 1857; using her daughters as models, she created a body of work remarkable for its technical brilliance and its original depiction of nascent womanhood. Lady Hawarden showed her work in the 1863 and 1864 exhibitions of the Photographic Society. With the exception of a few rare examples, her photographs remained in the possession of her family until 1939, when the more than eight hundred images were donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Only recently have they been the objects of research, publication, and exhibition.

Clementina Maude, her mother’s preferred model, is seen here in a reflective pose against a star-studded wall. The casual placement of the shawl on the table and the girl’s loose hair contribute to the feeling of intimacy. In the airy room time seems to be suspended. The sensuous curves of the table legs, the soft weight of the crushed velvet, and the crispness of the starry wallpaper are enhanced by the skilful handling of the collodion technique. The composition, devoid of Victorian clutter, brings together light, shadow, and compositional elements in a spare and appealing interplay. In contrast to the prevailing fashion of giving literary or sentimental titles to portraits of young women, Lady Hawarden titled her works simply “Photographic Study.”

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study (Clementina and Isabella Grace Maude)' 1863-64

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study (Clementina and Isabella Grace Maude)
1863-64
Albumen print from wet collodion negative
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Hawarden frequently dressed up her sitters and arranged them in enigmatic narratives like this one. Although not derived from any known painting, the manner of dress, including the cloak and tricorn hat of the male figure (actually one of Hawarden’s daughters dressed up), suggest an eighteenth century reference. (Wall text)

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study (Florence Elizabeth and Clementina Maude)' 1863-4

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study (Florence Elizabeth and Clementina Maude)
1863-4
Albumen print from wet collodion negative
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Working from upstairs rooms at 5 Princes Gardens, near to the South Kensington Museum (where both she and Julia Margaret Cameron were frequent visitors), Hawarden used light streaming from large floor to ceiling windows to illuminate her pictures. Her subjects were usually her children, especially her daughters Clementina, Florence, and Isabella Grace, whom she posed in domestic tableaux.

Both Carroll and Rejlander knew and admired Hawarden. On at least one occasion, Rejlander photographed her daughter Isabella Grace; after Hawarden’s death, he also photographed her youngest daughter, Antonia. (Wall text)

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) Hawarden. 'Isabella Grace and Clementina Maude, 5 Princes Gardens' c. 1863-4

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Hawarden Isabella Grace and Clementina Maude, 5 Princes Gardens
c. 1863-4
Albumen print from wet collodion negative
Given by Lady Clementina Tottenham
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Virginia Dodier thinks that this photograph belongs to an ‘Orientalist’ series. Here, Lady Hawarden gives her drawing room a tent-like atmosphere. Such scenes were popularised by the painter J. F. Lewis, and Roger Fenton exhibited his photographic ‘Nubian Series’ in 1859. Dodier writes that the idea of Orientalism allowed European artists to ‘evoke sensuality on the premise of presenting quasi-ethnographical information about the customs of the East’. The idea of the fancy dress or allegorical portrait stems from an earlier tradition in English art. They are found, for example, in the work of the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92). (Text from the Victoria and Albert Museum website)

 

 

Lady Clementina Hawarden: Themes & Style (extract)

With careful choice of props, clothing, mirrors, balcony, and posture, Hawarden produced exquisite studies of her adolescent daughters. The figures and dress are the main subject, carefully framed in the room, and often in front of the balcony. The city beyond often provides a blurred background.

The writer Carol Mavor in Becoming: The Photographs of Clementina, Viscountess Hawarden suggests that the often provocative poses of Hawarden’s daughters are significant. The Victorians were bothered by the idea of sexuality and adolescence, and in 1861 the Offences Against the Person Act raised the age of consent from 10 to 12. This was also the year in which Hawarden began to make this kind of photograph, though there is no evidence that she was deliberately exploring this controversial topic.

Hawarden liked to use natural light in her studio at her South Kensington home, in a way that was seen at the time as ‘daring’. She placed mirrors to reflect light and used them to explore the idea of ‘the double’, just as other photographers (and occasionally Hawarden herself) used a stereoscopic camera to produce twin prints.

From around 1862 Hawarden concentrated on photographing her daughters in costume tableaux, a popular subject at the time. Costumes from the dressing up box are combined with dresses at the height of fashion to produce beautiful and detailed studies that confound the contemporary with the make-believe.

Text from the Victoria and Albert Museum website

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study (Clementina and Florence Elizabeth Maude)' 1859-61

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study (Clementina and Florence Elizabeth Maude)
1859-61
Uncut stereo albumen print

 

Figure 60 and 61 of the catalogue for the exhibition 'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography' at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Figure 60 and 61 of the catalogue for the exhibition Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Figure 112 and 113 of the catalogue for the exhibition 'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography' at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Figure 112 and 113 of the catalogue for the exhibition Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Oscar Rejlander

According to his naturalisation papers, Rejlander was born in Stockholm on October 19, 1813. He was the son of Carl Gustaf Rejlander, a stonemason and Swedish Army Officer. During his youth, his family moved to the Swedish-speaking community in Rauma, Finland (then Russia). In the 1830s, he relocated to England, initially settling in Lincoln, England. In the 1850s he abandoned his original profession as a painter and portrait miniaturist, apparently after seeing how well a photograph captured the fold of a sleeve.

He set up as a portraitist in the industrial Midlands town of Wolverhampton, probably around 1846. In the early 1850s he learned the wet-collodion and waxed-paper processes at great speed with Nicholas Henneman in London, and then changed his business to that of a photography studio. He undertook genre work and portraiture. Rejlander also produced nude studies, mainly for use as studies by painters. There are no known erotic photographs of children by Rejlander. His so-called ‘Charlotte Baker’ photograph is a well-known forgery, produced by convicted child sex offender Graham Ovenden by Ovenden’s friend Howard Grey in the 1970s, rephotographed and printed to look antique by Ovenden. No person by the name Charlotte Baker ever seems to have posed for Rejlander.

Rejlander undertook many experiments to perfect his photography, including combination printing, which he did not invent; however, he created more elaborate and convincing composite photographs than any prior photographer. He had articles feature in the Wolverhampton Chronicle, on 15 November 1854 an article called “Improvement in Calotypes, by Mr. O.G. Rejlander, of Wolverhampton” it suggests that by 1854 he was experimenting with combination printing from several negatives. He was a friend of photographer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known by the nom de plume Lewis Carroll), who collected Rejlander’s work and corresponded with him on technical matters. Rejlander later created one of the best known and most revealing portraits of Dodgson.

Rejlander participated in the Paris Exhibition of 1855. In 1856 he made his best-known allegorical work, The Two Ways of Life. This was a seamlessly montaged combination print made of thirty-two images (akin to the use of Photoshop today, but then far more difficult to achieve) in about six weeks. First exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857, the work shows a man being lured to paths of vice or virtue by good and bad angels. The image’s partial nudity, which showed real women as they actually appeared and not the idealised forms then common in Victorian art, was deemed ‘indecent’ by some. Rejlander was also accused of using prostitutes as models, although Rejlander categorically denied this and no proof was ever offered. Reservations about the work subsided when Queen Victoria ordered a 10-guinea copy to give to Prince Albert. Victoria and Albert would go on to purchase three copies of the work, all of which are now lost. …

Rejlander moved his studio to Malden Road, London around 1862 and largely abandoned her early experiments with double exposure, photomontage, photographic manipulation and retouching. Instead, he became one of Britain’s leading portraitists, creating pictures with psychological charge. He became a leading expert in photographic techniques, lecturing and publishing widely, and sold work through bookshops and art dealers. He also found subject-matter in London, photographing homeless London street children to produce popular ‘social-protest’ pictures such as “Poor Joe,” also known as “Homeless”. …

Rejlander’s ideas and techniques were taken up by other photographers and this, to some extent, justifies labelling him as the father of art photography.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Charles Darwin' 1871

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Charles Darwin
1871
Albumen print
© Moderna Museet, Stockholm

 

 

Starting in the late 1860s, Charles Darwin began collecting photographs for use in the research that would eventually become his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). Hoping to find authentic photographs, that captured emotional expressions as they actually occurred, he visited print shops and studios in London, and contacted several photographers hoping to commission new pictures. Few, if any, of the photographs he acquired met his ambitious expectations.

In April, 1871, Darwin wrote, ‘I am now rich in photographs, for I have found in London Rejlander, who for years has had a passion for photographing all sorts of chance expressions, exhibited on various occasions … instantaneously.’ Rejlander would go on to become the main contributor of photographs to Darwin’s book. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Two Ways of Life' 1856-7

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Two Ways of Life
1856-7
Albumen print, made from approximately 32 separate negatives
Moderna Museet, Stockholm

 

 

One of the most famous pictures in photographic history, Rejlander’s Two Ways of Life caused a sensation when it was exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasures exhibition in 1857. To make it, Rejlander combined some thirty-two separate negatives (there were variations between printings, and it is not always clear where negatives begin and end). Some viewers were offended by the nudes, whose bodies appear frank and realistic compared to the ideal fantasies painters were expected to produce. Others objected to its ambition, since Rejlander seemed to be saying that photography could be used to produce pictures just as meaningful, and as artistically composed, as any painting.

To make Two Ways of Life, Rejlander had to arrange the various subjects within it at the right size to maintain visual perspective. This was a challenge, since enlargement and reduction of negatives was not yet possible in the darkroom. The only way he could change the size of something in the negative was to rephotograph it.

This is the finest known print of the photograph, which is also known in a reduced form. The photograph is a parable featuring Rejlander himself, who stands in the middle, listening to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ angels luring him to paths of vice and virtue. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert loved the picture and bought three copies, none of which survive. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)' c. 1860

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)
c. 1860
© Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Centre, The University of Texas at Austin

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)' c. 1860

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)
c. 1860
© Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Centre, The University of Texas at Austin

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)' c. 1860 (detail)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Evening Sun (Iphigenia) (detail)
c. 1860
© Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Centre, The University of Texas at Austin

 

 

Iphigenia was a daughter of King Agamemnon who appears in legends about the Trojan War. When her father accidentally offended the goddess Artemis, he was forced to sacrifice Iphigenia to appease the goddess so that she would allow his ships to sail to Troy. She was tricked into going to the town of Aulis under the pretence that she would marry the heroic warrior Achilles. In some versions she was killed, while in others she was rescued by Artemis. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Ariadne' 1857

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Ariadne
1857
Albumen print from a wet collodion negative

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Nude female study' c. 1867

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Nude female study
c. 1867
Albumen print
7 3/4 in. x 5 3/8 in. (196 mm x 138 mm) overall
Given by Stephan Loewentheil, 2017
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Rejlander produced a number of nude studies which he sold to painters for use as studies. He considered these pictures significant because they pointed up errors historically made by painters when depicting human anatomy. Although he was happy for painters to use photographs to improve their paintings, he also saw accuracy of depiction as one of the things that made photography special when compared to other art forms. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Virgin in prayer' c. 1857

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Virgin in prayer (after Sassoferrato)
c. 1857
albumen print
6 7/8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (174 mm x 150 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

This photograph is a based on the famous painting The Virgin in Prayer painted by the Italian Baroque painter Sassoferrato 1640-50, now in the collection of the National Gallery, London. The rise of public art spaces in Britain in the nineteenth century, including the National Gallery (1824), and the National Portrait Gallery (1856), provided inspiration for countless photographers. Rejlander was particularly enthusiastic about restaging famous paintings, often in order to demonstrate mistakes that painters had made in scale and perspective. The process was fun, and the results fuelled the debate about photography’s role among the arts. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Virgin in prayer (after Sassoferrato)' c. 1857

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Virgin in prayer (after Sassoferrato)
c. 1857
Albumen print
7 3/4 in. x 5 3/4 in. (196 mm x 146 mm) overall
Given by Stephan Loewentheil, 2017
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Unknown young woman' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Unknown young woman
1860-1866
Albumen print
7 3/8 in. x 5 1/4 in. (188 mm x 134 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Untitled (unknown sitter, possibly Rejlander's wife, Mary)' c. 1863

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Untitled (unknown sitter, possibly Rejlander’s wife, Mary)
c. 1863
Printed by Julia Margaret Cameron
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Cameron invited Rejlander to the Isle of Wight in 1863. Before the visit, Rejlander provided her with some of his own negatives, so that she could practise printing. She experimented with some, decorating them with ferns. This picture, which descended through Cameron’s family, was once believed to have been made by her. However, it is now recognised as one of the pictures Cameron printed from a Rejlander negative. The subject is one who frequently appears in Rejlander’s work, and may even have been his wife, Mary. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Unknown young woman' 1863-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Unknown young woman
1863-1866
Albumen print
8 1/8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (205 mm x 149 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) ''Sleep' (Mary Rejlander (née Bull))' c. 1855

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
‘Sleep’ (Mary Rejlander (née Bull))
c. 1855
Albumen print
6 1/8 in. x 6 5/8 in. (156 mm x 167 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Minnie Constable' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Minnie Constable
1860-1866
Albumen print
7 1/2 in. x 5 3/4 in. (192 mm x 146 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) ''Art must assist Photography' (Putto as Allegory of Painting)' 1856

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
‘Art must assist Photography’ (Putto as Allegory of Painting)
1856
Albumen print
4 3/4 in. x 3 5/8 in. (120 mm x 93 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Oscar Gustav Rejlander; Mary Rejlander (née Bull)' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Oscar Gustav Rejlander; Mary Rejlander (née Bull)
1860-1866
Albumen print
8 5/8 in. x 6 1/4 in. (219 mm x 158 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Unknown woman' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Unknown woman
1860-1866
Albumen print
8 in. x 5 3/4 in. (202 mm x 147 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) ''A devotee' (Unknown woman)' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
‘A devotee’ (Unknown woman)
1860-1866
Albumen print
8 5/8 in. x 6 1/4 in. (219 mm x 158 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Purify my heart' also known as 'The Little Sisters' c. 1862

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Purify my heart also known as The Little Sisters
c. 1862
Albumen print
5 in. x 4 1/8 in. (127 mm x 105 mm) overall
Given by Stephan Loewentheil, 2017
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

This photograph shows two sisters side by side in profile, their hands clasped in prayer. One girl seems almost to be a mirror reflection of the other. Rejlander exhibited versions of this photograph with two different titles. Purify My Heart is a reference to the biblical passage James 4:8: ‘Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.’ Lewis Carroll admired this photograph and purchased a copy for his personal collection. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Unknown young woman' 1863-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Unknown young woman
1863-1866
Albumen print
8 1/8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (205 mm x 149 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

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13
May
18

Exhibition: ‘Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London Part 1

Exhibition dates: 1st March – 20th May 2018

Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography is curated by Phillip Prodger PhD, Head of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Cover of the catalogue for the exhibition 'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography' at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Cover of the catalogue for the exhibition Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

A two-part bumper posting on this exhibition, Part 1 featuring the work of Lewis Carroll and our Julia… JMC, Julia Margaret Cameron, the most inventive, audacious and talented photographer of the era. In a photographic career spanning eleven years of her life (1864-1875) what Julia achieved in such a short time is incredible.

“Her style was not widely appreciated in her own day: her choice to use a soft focus and to treat photography as an art as well as a science, by manipulating the wet collodion process, caused her works to be viewed as “slovenly”, marred by “mistakes” and bad photography. She found more acceptance among pre-Raphaelite artists than among photographers.” (Wikipedia)

As with any genius (a person who possesses exceptional intellectual or creative power) who goes against the grain, full recognition did not come until later. But when it does arrive, it is undeniable. As soon as you see a JMC photograph… you know it is by her, it could be by no one else. Her “signature” – closely framed portraits and illustrative allegories based on religious and literary works; far-away looks, soft focus and lighting, low depth of field; strong men (“great thro’ genius”) and beautiful, sensual, heroic women (“great thro’ love”) – is her genius.

There is something so magical about how JMC can frame a face, emerging from darkness, side profile, filling the frame, top lit. Soft out of focus hair with one point of focus in the image. Beautiful light. Just the most sensitive capturing of a human being, I don’t know what it is… a glimpse into another world, a ghostly world of the spirit, the soul of the living seen before they are dead.

Love and emotion. Beauty, beautiful, beatified.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the National Portrait Gallery, London for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“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.”

.
Julia Margaret Cameron to Sir John Herschel, 31 December 1864

 

 

This major exhibition is the first to examine the relationship between four ground-breaking Victorian artists: Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79), Lewis Carroll (1832-98), Lady Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) and Oscar Rejlander (1813-75). Drawn from public and private collections internationally, the exhibition features some of the most breath-taking images in photographic history. Influenced by historical painting and frequently associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the four artists formed a bridge between the art of the past and the art of the future, standing as true giants in Victorian photography.

 

 

Figure 94 and 95 of the catalogue for the exhibition 'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography' at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Figure 94 and 95 from the catalogue for the exhibition Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

In 1856, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) took up the new art form of photography under the influence first of his uncle Skeffington Lutwidge, and later of his Oxford friend Reginald Southey. He soon excelled at the art and became a well-known gentleman-photographer, and he seems even to have toyed with the idea of making a living out of it in his very early years.

A study by Roger Taylor and Edward Wakeling exhaustively lists every surviving print, and Taylor calculates that just over half of his surviving work depicts young girls, though about 60% of his original photographic portfolio is now missing. Dodgson also made many studies of men, women, boys, and landscapes; his subjects also include skeletons, dolls, dogs, statues, paintings, and trees. His pictures of children were taken with a parent in attendance and many of the pictures were taken in the Liddell garden because natural sunlight was required for good exposures.

He also found photography to be a useful entrée into higher social circles. During the most productive part of his career, he made portraits of notable sitters such as John Everett MillaisEllen TerryDante Gabriel RossettiJulia Margaret CameronMichael FaradayLord Salisbury, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

By the time that Dodgson abruptly ceased photography (1880, over 24 years), he had established his own studio on the roof of Tom Quad, created around 3,000 images, and was an amateur master of the medium, though fewer than 1,000 images have survived time and deliberate destruction. He stopped taking photographs because keeping his studio working was too time-consuming. He used the wet collodion process; commercial photographers who started using the dry-plate process in the 1870s took pictures more quickly.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) 'Alice Liddell as 'The Beggar Maid'' Summer 1858

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
Alice Liddell as ‘The Beggar Maid’
also known as King Cophetua’s Bride
Summer 1858
Albumen silver print from glass negative
16.3 x 10.9cm (6 7/16 x 4 5/16in.)
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
© Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Known primarily as the author of children’s books, Lewis Carroll was also a lecturer in mathematics at Oxford University and an ordained deacon. He took his first photograph in 1856 and pursued photography obsessively for the next twenty-five years, exhibiting and selling his prints. He stopped taking pictures abruptly in 1880, leaving over three thousand negatives, for the most part portraits of friends, family, clergy, artists, and celebrities. Ill at ease among adults, Carroll preferred the company of children, especially young girls. He had the uncanny ability to inhabit the universe of children as a friendly accomplice, allowing for an extraordinarily trusting rapport with his young sitters and enabling him to charm them into immobility for as long as forty seconds, the minimum time he deemed necessary for a successful exposure. The intensity of the sitters’ gazes brings to Carroll’s photographs a sense of the inner life of children and the seriousness with which they view the world.

Carroll’s famous literary works, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865) and “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There” (1872), were both written for Alice Liddell, the daughter of the dean of Christ Church, Oxford. For Carroll, Alice was more than a favourite model; she was his “ideal child-friend,” and a photograph of her, aged seven, adorned the last page of the manuscript he gave her of “Alice’s Adventures Underground.” The present image of Alice was most likely inspired by “The Beggar Maid,” a poem written by Carroll’s favourite living poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in 1842. If Carroll’s images define childhood as a fragile state of innocent grace threatened by the experience of growing up and the demands of adults, they also reveal to the contemporary viewer the photographer’s erotic imagination. In this provocative portrait of Alice at age seven or eight, posed as a beggar against a neglected garden wall, Carroll arranged the tattered dress to the limits of the permissible, showing as much as possible of her bare chest and limbs, and elicited from her a self-confident, even challenging stance. This outcast beggar will arouse in the passer-by as much lust as pity. Indeed, Alice looks at us with faint suspicion, as if aware that she is being used as an actor in an incomprehensible play. A few years later, a grown-up Alice would pose, with womanly assurance, for Julia Margaret Cameron.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) 'Alice Liddell' Summer 1858

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
Alice Liddell
Summer 1858
Wet collodion glass-plate negative
6 in. x 5 in. (152 mm x 127 mm)
Purchased jointly with the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, with help from the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 2002
© National Portrait Gallery, London and the National Media Museum (part of the Science Museum Group, London)

 

 

The fourth of ten children and later the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, Alice Liddell is the most famous of Carroll’s child sitters. Contrary to popular belief, Carroll did not photograph her particularly often, and never photographed her in the nude. Of the 2,600 photographs recorded by Carroll, only twelve solo portraits of Alice are known. By comparison, he made six individual portraits of Alice’s sister, Ina, and forty-five of another favoured sitter, Xie Kitchin (see preceding room). (Wall text)

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) 'Ina Liddell' Summer 1858

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
Ina Liddell
Summer 1858
Albumen print
5 7/8 in. x 5 in. (150 mm x 126 mm) uneven
Purchased jointly with the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, with help from the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 2002
© National Portrait Gallery, London and the National Media Museum (part of the Science Museum Group, London)

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) 'Edith Mary Liddell; Ina Liddell; Alice Liddell Summer' 1858

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
Edith Mary Liddell; Ina Liddell; Alice Liddell
Summer 1858
Wet collodion glass plate negative
6 in. x 7 1/8 in. (154 mm x 181 mm)
Purchased jointly with the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, with help from the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 2002
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) 'Edith Mary Liddell; Ina Liddell; Alice Liddell Summer' 1858

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
Edith Mary Liddell; Ina Liddell; Alice Liddell
Summer 1858
Albumen print
6 1/8 in. x 6 7/8 in. (156 mm x 176 mm)
Purchased jointly with the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, with help from the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 2002
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) 'Edith Mary Liddell' Summer 1858

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
Edith Mary Liddell
Summer 1858
Albumen print
5 7/8 in. x 7 in. (148 mm x 177 mm) uneven
Purchased jointly with the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, with help from the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 2002
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) 'Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson' 28 September 1857

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson
28 September 1857
Albumen print
5 1/8 in. x 3 7/8 in. (130 mm x 99 mm)
Purchased, 1977
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Hallam Tennyson (1852–1928), Alfred Tennyson’s eldest son, was five years old when Carroll photographed him at Monk Coniston Park in the Lake District. Taken while the poet and his family were visiting friends, the portrait shows Hallam standing on a chair, holding what may be a hoop rolling stick. Carroll posed him with his legs crossed – a tricky stance for such a young child to maintain. As an adult, Hallam would marry May Prinsep, Julia Margaret Cameron’s niece. Carroll did make one portrait of Alfred Tennyson during his Lake District trip, but he was determined to make more. In 1864, he visited the Isle of Wight to try to photograph him again, armed with a ‘carpet bag full’ of his photographs to show Cameron and others. He was unable to photograph Tennyson, but Cameron and Carroll staged a ‘mutual exhibition’ in Cameron’s living room. (Wall text)

Hallam Tennyson, 2nd Baron Tennyson, GCMG, PC (11 August 1852 – 2 December 1928) was a British aristocrat who served as the second Governor-General of Australia, in office from 1903 to 1904. He was previously Governor of South Australia from 1899 to 1902.

Tennyson was born in Twickenham, Surrey, and educated at Marlborough College and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was the oldest son of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and served as his personal secretary and biographer; he succeeded to his father’s title in 1892. Tennyson was made Governor of South Australia in 1899. When Lord Hopetoun resigned the governor-generalship in mid-1902, he was the longest-serving state governor and thus became Administrator of the Government. Tennyson was eventually chosen to be Hopetoun’s permanent replacement, but accepted only a one-year term. He was more popular than his predecessor among the general public, but had a tense relationship with Prime Minister Alfred Deakin and was not offered an extension to his term. Tennyson retired to the Isle of Wight, and spent the rest of his life upholding his father’s legacy.

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) ''Open your mouth, and shut your eyes' (Edith Mary Liddell; Ina Liddell; Alice Liddell)' July 1860

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
‘Open your mouth, and shut your eyes’ (Edith Mary Liddell; Ina Liddell; Alice Liddell)
July 1860
Wet collodion glass plate negative
10 in. x 8 in. (254 mm x 203 mm)
Purchased jointly with the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, with help from the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 2002
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

The Liddell family arrived at Christ Church, Oxford in 1856, just as Carroll was beginning to take up photography. He and the family became close friends. Henry Liddell served as Dean of the College throughout Carroll’s career, and initially supported his photographic efforts. In 1863, Carroll and the family broke off relations for unknown reasons. Speculation has included disappointment that Carroll went against the family’s wishes by refusing to court their governess or one of the older Liddell children – Ina has been mentioned as a candidate. Carroll was enormously charmed by the Liddell children, all of whom he photographed, and nearly all of whom made their way into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and other, related writings. (Wall text)

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) 'The Rossetti Family' 7 October 1863

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
The Rossetti Family
7 October 1863
Albumen print
6 7/8 in. x 8 3/4 in. (175 mm x 222 mm)
Given by Helen Macgregor, 1978
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Carroll spent months trying to arrange an introduction to Rossetti (1828-82) so that he could photograph the famous Pre-Raphaelite painter and poet, and his family. This is one of several photographs he made in the garden of Tudor House, 16 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, during a four-day session in which he photographed the family and some of Rossetti’s artwork, including drawings of his late wife, Elizabeth Siddal.

The relationship between Carroll, Cameron, Hawarden, Rejlander and the Pre-Raphaelites was complex. They had many common friends and associates, and it is believed that several Pre-Raphaelite painters used photographs as studies for their paintings and sculpture. However, all four photographers were attracted to later styles of painting, especially the Spanish and Italian National Portrait Gallery, London Baroque, and the Dutch Golden Age. Led by the cantankerous critic John Ruskin, an associate of Henry Liddell’s at Oxford (Alice Liddell’s father), the Pre-Raphaelites were opposed to such painting, which they considered too literal and mundane. (Wall text)

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) 'Dante Gabriel Rossetti' 7 October 1863

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
7 October 1863
Albumen print
5 3/4 in. x 4 3/4 in. (146 mm x 121 mm)
Purchased, 1977
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti (12 May 1828 – 9 April 1882), generally known as Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a British poet, illustrator, painter and translator. He founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais. Rossetti was later to be the main inspiration for a second generation of artists and writers influenced by the movement, most notably William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. His work also influenced the European Symbolists and was a major precursor of the Aesthetic movement.

Rossetti’s art was characterised by its sensuality and its medieval revivalism. His early poetry was influenced by John Keats. His later poetry was characterised by the complex interlinking of thought and feeling, especially in his sonnet sequence, The House of Life. Poetry and image are closely entwined in Rossetti’s work. He frequently wrote sonnets to accompany his pictures, spanning from The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849) and Astarte Syriaca (1877), while also creating art to illustrate poems such as Goblin Market by the celebrated poet Christina Rossetti, his sister. Rossetti’s personal life was closely linked to his work, especially his relationships with his models and muses Elizabeth Siddal, Fanny Cornforth and Jane Morris. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) 'Benjamin Woodward' Late 1850s

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
Benjamin Woodward
Late 1850s
Albumen print
8 in. x 6 in. (203 mm x 152 mm)
Purchased, 1986
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Irish-born architect Benjamin Woodward (1815-61) is best known for having designed a number of buildings in Cork, Dublin and Oxford in partnership with Sir Thomas Deane and his son Sir Thomas Newenham Deane. Inspired by the writings of critic John Ruskin, his most important buildings include the museum at Trinity College, Dublin (1853-7). Through Ruskin, Woodward met Dante Gabriel Rossetti and other Pre-Raphaelite artists, whom Woodward employed in 1857 to decorate his recently completed Oxford Union building. (Wall text)

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) 'John Ruskin' 6 March 1875

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
John Ruskin
6 March 1875
Albumen print
3 1/2 in. x 2 1/4 in. (90 mm x 58 mm) overall
Given by an anonymous donor, 1973
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

John Ruskin (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900) was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, water colourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany and political economy.

His writing styles and literary forms were equally varied. He penned essays and treatises, poetry and lectures, travel guides and manuals, letters and even a fairy tale. He also made detailed sketches and paintings of rocks, plants, birds, landscapes, and architectural structures and ornamentation. The elaborate style that characterised his earliest writing on art gave way in time to plainer language designed to communicate his ideas more effectively. In all of his writing, he emphasised the connections between nature, art and society.

He was hugely influential in the latter half of the 19th century and up to the First World War. After a period of relative decline, his reputation has steadily improved since the 1960s with the publication of numerous academic studies of his work. Today, his ideas and concerns are widely recognised as having anticipated interest in environmentalism, sustainability and craft. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) 'Lewis Carroll' c. 1857

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
Lewis Carroll
c. 1857
Albumen print
5 1/2 in. x 4 5/8 in. (140 mm x 117 mm)
Purchased with help from Kodak Ltd, 1973
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Lewis Carroll took this photograph of himself with the assistance of Ina Liddell, Alice’s older sister. His diary records: ‘Bought some Collodion at Telfer’s […] and spent the morning at the Deanery … Harry was away, but the two dear little girls, Ina and Alice, were with me all the morning. To try the lens, I took a picture of myself, for which Ina took off the cap, and of course considered it all her doing!’ (Wall text)

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98) 'Alice Liddell' 25 June 1870

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-98)
Alice Liddell
25 June 1870
Albumen carte-de-visite
3 1/2 in. x 2 1/4 in. (91 mm x 58 mm)
Purchased jointly with the National Science and Media Museum, Bradford, with help from the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 2002
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

This is the only portrait of Alice that Carroll is known to have made after the publication of Alice in Wonderland, some seven years earlier. Showing Alice at age eighteen, the innocence of her earlier portraits has now completely drained away, replaced by a severe, inscrutable expression. The moment captured is unusually intimate, with Alice’s head lowered slightly and cocked to one side, looking up at the viewer, and her body slumped in a padded armchair. It is unclear whether Carroll orchestrated this pose, or whether Alice assumed it naturally. (Wall text)

 

 

The National Portrait Gallery is to stage an exhibition of photographs by four of the most celebrated figures in art photography, including previously unseen works and a notorious photomontage, it was announced today, Tuesday 22 August 2017.

Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography (1 March – 20 May 2018), will combine for the first time ever portraits by Lewis Carroll (1832-98), Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79), Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) and Lady Clementina Hawarden (1822-65). The exhibition will be the first to examine the relationship between the four ground-breaking artists. Drawn from public and private collections internationally, it will feature some of the most breath-taking images in photographic history, including many which have not been seen in Britain since they were made.

Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography will be the first exhibition in London to feature the work of Swedish born ‘Father of Photoshop’ Oscar Rejlander since the artist’s death. it will include the finest surviving print of his famous picture Two Ways of Life of 1856-7, which used his pioneering technique combining several different negatives to create a single final image. Constructed from over 30 separate negatives, Two Ways of Life was so large it had to be printed on two sheets of paper joined together. Seldom-seen original negatives by Lewis Carroll and Rejlander will both be shown, allowing visitors to see ‘behind the scenes’ as they made their pictures.

An album of photographs by Rejlander purchased by the National Portrait Gallery following an export bar in 2015 will also go on display together with other treasures from the Gallery’s world-famous holdings of Rejlander, Cameron and Carroll, which for conservation reasons are rarely on view. The exhibition will also include works by cult hero Clementina Hawarden, a closely associated photographer. This will be the first major showing of her work since the exhibition Lady Hawarden at the V&A in London and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 1990.

Lewis Carroll’s photographs of Alice Liddell, his muse for Alice in Wonderland, are among the most beloved photographs of the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection. Less well known are the photographs made of Alice years later, showing her a fully grown woman. The exhibition will bring together these works for the first time, as well as Alice Liddell as Beggar Maid on loan from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Visitors will be able to see how each photographer approached the same subject, as when Cameron and Rejlander both photographed the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and the scientist Charles Darwin, or when Carroll and Cameron both photographed the actress, Ellen Terry. The exhibition will also include the legendary studies of human emotion Rejlander made for Darwin, on loan from the Darwin Archive at Cambridge University.

Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography celebrates four key nineteenth-century figures, exploring their experimental approach to picture-making. Their radical attitudes towards photography have informed artistic practice ever since.

The four created an unlikely alliance. Rejlander was a Swedish émigré with a mysterious past; Cameron was a middle-aged expatriate from colonial Ceylon (now Sri Lanka); Carroll was an Oxford academic and writer of fantasy literature; and Hawarden was landed gentry, the child of a Scottish naval hero and a Spanish beauty, 26 years younger. Yet, Carroll, Cameron and Hawarden all studied under Rejlander briefly, and maintained lasting associations, exchanging ideas about portraiture and narrative. Influenced by historical painting and frequently associated with the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, they formed a bridge between the art of the past and the art of the future, standing as true giants in Victorian photography.

Lenders to the exhibition include The Royal Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin; Munich Stadtsmuseum; Tate and V & A. Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography will include portraits of sitters such as Charles Darwin, Alice Liddell, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Thomas Carlyle, George Frederick Watts, Ellen Terry and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘The National Portrait Gallery has one of the finest holdings of Victorian photographs in the world. As well as some of the Gallery’s rarely seen treasures, such as the original negative of Lewis Carroll’s portrait of Alice Liddell and images of Alice and her siblings being displayed for the first time, this exhibition will be a rare opportunity to see the works of all four of these highly innovative and influential artists.’

Phillip Prodger, Head of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery, London, and Curator of Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography, says: ‘When people think of Victorian photography, they sometimes think of stiff, fusty portraits of women in crinoline dresses, and men in bowler hats. Victorian Giants is anything but. Here visitors can see the birth of an idea – raw, edgy, experimental – the Victorian avant-garde, not just in photography, but in art writ large. The works of Cameron, Carroll, Hawarden and Rejlander forever changed thinking about photography and its expressive power. These are pictures that inspire and delight. And this is a show that lays bare the unrivalled creative energy, and optimism, that came with the birth of new ways of seeing.’

Press release from the National Portrait Gallery

 

Figure 25 and 26 of the catalogue for the exhibition 'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography' at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Figure 25 and 26 from the catalogue for the exhibition Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron

In 1863, when Cameron was 48 years old, her daughter gave her a camera as a present, thereby starting her career as a photographer. Within a year, Cameron became a member of the Photographic Societies of London (1864) and Scotland. She remained a member of the Photographic Society, London, until her death. In her photography, Cameron strove to capture beauty. She wrote, “I longed to arrest all the beauty that came before me and at length the longing has been satisfied.” In 1869 she collated and gave what is now known as The Norman Album to her daughter and son-in-law in gratitude for having introduced her to photography. The album was later deemed by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art to be of “outstanding aesthetic importance and significance to the study of the history of photography and, in particular, the work of Julia Margaret Cameron – one of the most significant photographers of the 19th century.”

The basic techniques of soft-focus “fancy portraits”, which she later developed, were taught to her by David Wilkie Wynfield. She later wrote that “to my feeling about his beautiful photography I owed all my attempts and indeed consequently all my success”.

Lord Tennyson, her neighbour on the Isle of Wight, often brought friends to see the photographer and her works. At the time, photography was a labour-intensive art that also was highly dependent upon crucial timing. Sometimes Cameron was obsessive about her new occupation, with subjects sitting for countless exposures as she laboriously coated, exposed, and processed each wet plate. The results were unconventional in their intimacy and their use of created blur both through long exposures and leaving the lens intentionally out of focus. This led some of her contemporaries to complain and even ridicule the work, but her friends and family were supportive, and she was one of the most prolific and advanced amateurs of her time. Her enthusiasm for her craft meant that her children and others sometimes tired of her endless photographing, but it also left us with some of the best of records of her children and of the many notable figures of the time who visited her.

During her career, Cameron registered each of her photographs with the copyright office and kept detailed records. Her shrewd business sense is one reason that so many of her works survive today. Another reason that many of Cameron’s portraits are significant is because they are often the only existing photograph of historical figures, becoming an invaluable resource. Many paintings and drawings exist, but, at the time, photography was still a new and challenging medium for someone outside a typical portrait studio.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Mary Fisher (Mrs Herbert Fisher)' 1866-67

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Mary Fisher (Mrs Herbert Fisher)
1866-67
Albumen print

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Julia Jackson' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Julia Jackson
1864
Albumen print

 

 

Born in Calcutta, Julia Prinsep Jackson (1846-95) was the youngest of three daughters of Maria Pattle and the physician John Jackson. Greatly admired by the leading artists of the day, both Edward Burne-Jones and G.F. Watts painted her and she was extensively photographed by her aunt and godmother Julia Margaret Cameron. Julia Jackson’s first husband, Herbert Duckworth, died in 1870 after only three years of marriage. She later married Leslie Stephen, editor of The Dictionary of National Biography. Together they had four children, including the painter Vanessa Bell and the writer Virginia Woolf. (Wall text)

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty
1866
Albumen print
©  Wilson Centre for Photography

 

 

Positioned high in the frame against a dark neutral backdrop, with piercing eyes and determined expression, the Mountain Nymph reveals the psychological charge of Cameron’s best portraits. The title derives from John Milton’s poem L’Allegro (published 1645): ‘Come, and trip it as ye go / On the light fantastick toe, / And in thy right hand lead with thee, / The Mountain Nymph, sweet Liberty’. Little is known about the sitter, Mrs Keene. She may have been a professional model as she also sat for the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones. (Wall text)

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Virginia Dalrymple' 1868-70

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Virginia Dalrymple
1868-70
Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Marie Stillman (née Spartali)' 1868

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Marie Stillman (née Spartali)
1868
Albumen cabinet card
5 1/4 in. x 3 7/8 in. (133 mm x 99 mm)
Given by Cordelia Curle (née Fisher), 1959
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Marie Euphrosyne Spartali (Greek: Μαρία Ευφροσύνη Σπαρτάλη), later Stillman (10 March 1844 – 6 March 1927), was a British Pre-Raphaelite painter of Greek descent, arguably the greatest female artist of that movement. During a sixty-year career, she produced over one hundred and fifty works, contributing regularly to exhibitions in Great Britain and the United States.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) ''La Madonna Aspettante' (William Frederick Gould; Mary Ann Hillier)' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
‘La Madonna Aspettante’ (William Frederick Gould; Mary Ann Hillier)
1865
Albumen carte-de-visite on gold-edged mount
2 3/4 in. x 2 1/4 in. (70 mm x 56 mm)
Given by Cordelia Curle (née Fisher), 1959
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) ''The Kiss of Peace' (Elizabeth ('Topsy') Keown; Mary Ann Hillier)' 1869

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
‘The Kiss of Peace’ (Elizabeth (‘Topsy’) Keown; Mary Ann Hillier)
1869
Albumen print on gold-edged cabinet
5 1/8 in. x 3 7/8 in. (131 mm x 99 mm) image size
Given by Cordelia Curle (née Fisher), 1959
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Daisy Taylor' 1872

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Daisy Taylor
1872
Albumen print
14 3/8 in. x 9 3/4 in. (364 mm x 247 mm) image size
Given by Cordelia Curle (née Fisher), 1959
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) ''Alethea' (Alice Liddell)' 1872

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
‘Alethea’ (Alice Liddell)
1872
Albumen print
12 3/4 in. x 9 3/8 in. (324 mm x 237 mm) oval
Given by Cordelia Curle (née Fisher), 1959
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Lewis Carroll’s photographs of Alice Liddell are well-known; less familiar are the portraits Julia Margaret Cameron made of her years later, several of which respond directly to Carroll’s pictures. In this photograph, the twenty-year-old Alice is posed in full profile, much as Carroll depicted her in his famous seated portrait of 1858, shown nearby. However, Cameron shows Alice’s long wavy hair cascading in front of and behind her, merging with a background of blooming hydrangeas, the flowering of the plant echoing her coming of age. Cameron named the portrait after the Greek Aletheia, meaning ‘true’ or ‘faithful’. (Wall text)

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Ellen Terry at Age Sixteen' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Ellen Terry at Age Sixteen
1864
Albumen print

 

 

With a stage career that began at the age of nine and spanned sixty-nine years, Ellen Alice Terry (1847-1928) is regarded as one of the greatest actresses of her time. She was particularly celebrated for her naturalistic portrayals. Already an established professional, she married the artist G.F. Watts, thirty years her senior, a week before her seventeenth birthday, the year this photograph was made. Although they separated after less than a year, Watts painted Ellen on several occasions. One such portrait is currently on view in Room 26, on the Gallery’s first floor. Cameron’s idea to use a photograph of a particular subject at a specific time to embody a broad, abstract concept was particularly bold. Many believed that photography was better suited to recording minute detail than communicating universal themes. (Wall text)

Dame Alice Ellen Terry, GBE (27 February 1847 – 21 July 1928), known professionally as Ellen Terry, was an English actress who became the leading Shakespearean actress in Britain. Born into a family of actors, Terry began performing as a child, acting in Shakespeare plays in London, and toured throughout the British provinces in her teens. At 16 she married the 46-year-old artist George Frederic Watts, but they separated within a year. She soon returned to the stage but began a relationship with the architect Edward William Godwin and retired from the stage for six years. She resumed acting in 1874 and was immediately acclaimed for her portrayal of roles in Shakespeare and other classics.

In 1878 she joined Henry Irving’s company as his leading lady, and for more than the next two decades she was considered the leading Shakespearean and comic actress in Britain. Two of her most famous roles were Portia in The Merchant of Venice and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. She and Irving also toured with great success in America and Britain.

In 1903 Terry took over management of London’s Imperial Theatre, focusing on the plays of George Bernard Shaw and Henrik Ibsen. The venture was a financial failure, and Terry turned to touring and lecturing. She continued to find success on stage until 1920, while also appearing in films from 1916 to 1922. Her career lasted nearly seven decades.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Julia Prinsep Stephen (née Jackson, formerly Mrs Duckworth)' 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Julia Prinsep Stephen (née Jackson, formerly Mrs Duckworth)
1867
Albumen print, oval
13 1/2 in. x 10 3/8 in. (344 mm x 263 mm)
Given by Cordelia Curle (née Fisher), 1959
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Julia Prinsep Stephen, née Jackson (7 February 1846 – 5 May 1895) was a celebrated English beauty, philanthropist and Pre-Raphaelite model. She was the wife of the agnostic biographer Leslie Stephen and mother of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell, members of the Bloomsbury Group.

Born in India, the family returned to England when Julia Stephen was two years old. She became the favourite model of her aunt, the celebrated photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron, who made over 50 portraits of her. Through another maternal aunt, she became a frequent visitor at Little Holland House, then home to an important literary and artistic circle, and came to the attention of a number of Pre-Raphaelite painters who portrayed her in their work. Married to Herbert Duckworth, a barrister, in 1867 she was soon widowed with three infant children. Devastated, she turned to nursing, philanthropy and agnosticism, and found herself attracted to the writing and life of Leslie Stephen, with whom she shared a mutual friend in Anny Thackeray, his sister-in-law.

After Leslie Stephen’s wife died in 1875 he became close friends with Julia and they married in 1878. Julia and Leslie Stephen had four further children, living at 22 Hyde Park Gate, South Kensington, together with his seven year old handicapped daughter. Many of her seven children and their descendants became notable. In addition to her family duties and modelling, she wrote a book based on her nursing experiences, Notes from Sick Rooms, in 1883. She also wrote children’s stories for her family, eventually published posthumously as Stories for Children and became involved in social justice advocacy. Julia Stephens had firm views on the role of women, namely that their work was of equal value to that of men, but in different spheres, and she opposed the suffrage movement for votes for women. The Stephens entertained many visitors at their London home and their summer residence at St Ives, Cornwall. Eventually the demands on her both at home and outside the home started to take their toll. Julia Stephen died at her home following an episode of influenza in 1895, at the age of 49, when her youngest child was only 11. The writer, Virginia Woolf, provides a number of insights into the domestic life of the Stephens in both her autobiographical and fictional work.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Julia Prinsep Stephen (née Jackson, formerly Mrs Duckworth); Gerald Duckworth' August 1872

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Julia Prinsep Stephen (née Jackson, formerly Mrs Duckworth); Gerald Duckworth
August 1872
Albumen print
8 1/2 in. x 12 1/8 in. (216 mm x 309 mm)
Given by Cordelia Curle (née Fisher), 1959
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Robert Browning' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Robert Browning
1865
Albumen print
© Wellcome Collection, London

 

 

Cameron had a genius for recognising the expressive potential of chance events in her work. In this incomparable portrait, she allowed the many speck marks that cover this picture, caused by dust or debris settling on the plate after sensitising, to remain as part of the image. As a result, the poet Browning (1812-89) becomes a transcendent figure, seemingly emerging from a field of stars. Browning developed an early interest in literature and the arts, encouraged by his father who was a clerk for the Bank of England. He refused to pursue a formal career and from 1833, he dedicated himself to writing poems and plays. In 1846 he married the poet Elizabeth Barrett. The couple lived in Italy until Elizabeth’s death in 1861, five years before this picture was taken. (Wall text)

Robert Browning (7 May 1812 – 12 December 1889) was an English poet and playwright whose mastery of the dramatic monologue made him one of the foremost Victorian poets. His poems are known for their irony, characterisation, dark humour, social commentary, historical settings, and challenging vocabulary and syntax.

Browning’s early career began promisingly, but was not a success. The long poem Pauline brought him to the attention of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and was followed by Paracelsus, which was praised by William Wordsworth and Charles Dickens, but in 1840 the difficult Sordello, which was seen as wilfully obscure, brought his poetry into disrepute. His reputation took more than a decade to recover, during which time he moved away from the Shelleyan forms of his early period and developed a more personal style.

In 1846 Browning married the older poet Elizabeth Barrett, who at the time was considerably better known than himself, thus starting one of the most famous literary marriages. They went to live in Italy, a country he called “my university”, and which features frequently in his work. By the time of her death in 1861, he had published the crucial collection Men and Women. The collection Dramatis Personae and the book-length epic poem The Ring and the Book followed, and made him a leading British poet. He continued to write prolifically, but his reputation today rests largely on the poetry he wrote in this middle period.

When Browning died in 1889, he was regarded as a sage and philosopher-poet who through his writing had made contributions to Victorian social and political discourse – as in the poem Caliban upon Setebos, which some critics have seen as a comment on the theory of evolution, which had recently been put forward by Darwin and others. Unusually for a poet, societies for the study of his work were founded while he was still alive. Such Browning Societies remained common in Britain and the United States until the early 20th century.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Thomas Carlyle' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Thomas Carlyle
1865
Albumen print
Lent by Her Majesty The Queen

 

 

Cameron portrayed the eminent historian and essayist Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) completely out of focus – a disembodied, ethereal being, with light playing across his head, face, and beard.

Born in Scotland, Carlyle is considered one of the most important social commentators of his time. His ideas about the role of ‘great men’ in shaping history informed his lecture series and book On Heroes, Hero-Worship and The Heroic in History (1841). Instrumental in the founding of the National Portrait Gallery, he became one of its first Trustees. Carlyle was lifelong friends with Henry Taylor (shown in the next room), to whom Cameron was also close. (Wall text)

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Sir John Frederick William Herschel, 1st Bt' 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Sir John Frederick William Herschel, 1st Bt
1867
albumen print
13 3/8 in. x 10 3/8 in. (340 mm x 264 mm)
Purchased, 1982
© Wilson Centre for Photography

 

 

Cameron portrayed astronomer and physicist John Frederick William Herschel (1792-1871) as a romantic hero, his wild white hair and shining eyes emerging from darkness. Cameron and Herschel were lifelong friends. They had met in South Africa in 1836, where he was mapping the sky of the southern hemisphere, and where she was recovering from illness. A pioneer in the invention of photography, Herschel was responsible for numerous advancements and is credited with coining the terms ‘negative’, ‘positive’, and ‘photograph’. He introduced Cameron to photography in 1839 and shared the results of his early experiments with her. Rejlander also photographed Herschel, several years previously. (Wall text)

Sir John Frederick William Herschel, 1st Baronet KH FRS (7 March 1792 – 11 May 1871) was an English polymath, mathematician, astronomer, chemist, inventor, and experimental photographer, who also did valuable botanical work. He was the son of Mary Baldwin and astronomer William Herschel, nephew of astronomer Caroline Herschel and the father of twelve children.

Herschel originated the use of the Julian day system in astronomy. He named seven moons of Saturn and four moons of Uranus. He made many contributions to the science of photography, and investigated colour blindness and the chemical power of ultraviolet rays; his Preliminary Discourse (1831), which advocated an inductive approach to scientific experiment and theory building, was an important contribution to the philosophy of science. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Alfred, Lord Tennyson' 3 June 1869

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
3 June 1869
Albumen print
11 3/8 in. x 9 3/4 in. (289 mm x 248 mm)
Purchased, 1974
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Here, Cameron shows the poet emerging out of inky darkness, crowned by wild locks of hair on either side of his head, sporting an abundant beard, and framed by two points of his lapel. She positioned him on high, god-like and looking down, the viewer’s eye fixed at the height of his top button. (Wall text)

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) 'Charles Darwin' 1868-1869

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
Charles Darwin
1868-1869
Albumen print
13 in. x 10 1/8 in. (330 mm x 256 mm)
Purchased, 1974
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

In the summer of 1868, Darwin and his family rented a holiday cottage on the Isle of Wight from Cameron’s family. The visit gave Cameron the opportunity to make this famous photograph. Publically, Darwin wrote of this portrait: ‘I like this photograph very much better than any other which has been taken of me.’ Privately, he was less positive, describing it as ‘heavy and unclear’. This particular print once belonged to Virginia Woolf, who was Julia Margaret Cameron’s great niece. (Wall text)

 

 

National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place
London, WC2H 0HE

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday, Saturday – Sunday 10am – 6pm
Thursday – Friday 10am – 9pm

National Portrait Gallery website

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11
Apr
18

Vale Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)

April 2018

 

My god, what a loss.

I am very sorry to hear of the passing of Polixeni Papapetrou. Sadness indeed…

Poli was a wonderful spirit and an incredibly gifted artist. Condolences to Robert Nelson and all of the family.

A selection of some of my favourite Papapetrou images are posted below – but really, there are so many memorable images, she leaves behind an indelible and lasting legacy.

From an earlier posting:

 

“What we should do is honour this talented and determined artist for creating so many memorable images over the years, for following her passion and her heart with courage and conviction. For the rest of my life I will always remember the spaces, the ambiguous vistas, the fantastical archetypes, the fables of her work. Images of drag queens and Dreamkeepers, Ghillies and goblins are etched in my memory. I will always remember them. You can’t ask much more from the work of an artist than that.”

 

You can kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream.

Marcus

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Drag queen wearing cut out dress' 1993

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Drag queen wearing cut out dress
1993
From the series Drag Queens 1988-1999
Gelatin silver photograph
28.5 x 28.5 cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

 

“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.”

.
Paul Klee. Creative Credo [Schöpferische Konfession] 1920

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Three young men paying homage to Elvis on the 13th anniversary of Elvis’ death, Elvis Memorial Melbourne' 1990

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Three young men paying homage to Elvis on the 13th anniversary of Elvis’ death, Elvis Memorial Melbourne
1990
From the series Elvis Immortal 1987-2002
Selenium toned gelatin silver photograph
40.7 x 40.7 cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Mr Wrestling' 1992

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Mr Wrestling
1992
From the series Wrestlers 1992
Pigment ink print
100 x 100cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Indian Brave' 2002

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Indian Brave
2002
From the series Phantomwise 2002-03
Pigment ink print
85 x 85 cm
Courtesy the artist and Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne and Stills Gallery, Sydney

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Lost' 2005

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Lost
2005
From the series Fairy Tales 2004-2014
Type C print
100 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney + Berlin and Jarvis Dooney Galerie, Berlin
Reproduced with permission

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'In the Wimmera 1864 #1' 2006

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
In the Wimmera 1864 #1
2006
From the series Haunted country 2006
Pigment ink print
105 x 105cm
Geelong Gallery Collection

 

 

In the Wimmera 1864 #1 from the Haunted country series is amongst the earliest works by the artist to have been staged in the Australian landscape and is one in which she explores the narrative of the ‘lost child’. The work references the story of three children lost in Mallee scrub near their home outside Horsham in the Wimmera District and is reminiscent, as the artist intends, of Frederick McCubbin’s late 19th century paintings of children lost or at least wandering absent-mindedly through the Australia bush. (Text from the Culture Victoria website)

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Hanging Rock 1900 #3' 2006

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
Hanging Rock 1900 #3
2006
From the series Haunted country 2006
Pigment ink print
105 x 105 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Provider' 2009

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Provider
2009
From the series Between Worlds 2009-2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Mourner' 2012

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Mourner
2012
From the series Between Worlds 2009-2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Joy Pedlars' 2011 from 'The Dreamkeepers' 2011

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Joy Pedlars
2011
From the series The Dreamkeepers 2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Wanderer No. 3', 2012 from 'The Dreamkeepers'

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Wanderer No. 3
2012
From the series The Dreamkeepers 2012
Pigment print
105 x 105cm

 

Polixeni Papaetrou (1960-2018) 'Ocean Man' 2013

 

Polixeni Papaetrou (1960-2018)
Ocean Man
2013
From the series The Ghillies 2013
120 cm x 120 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

Polixeni Papaetrou. 'Scrub Man' 2012

 

Polixeni Papaetrou (1960-2018)
Scrub Man
2012
From the series The Ghillies 2013
120 cm x 120 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013

 

 

Review of the exhibition Polixeni Papapetrou: Lost Psyche at Stills Gallery, 2014

When “facing” adversity, it is a measure of a person’s character how they hold themselves, what face they show to the world, and how their art represents them in that world. So it is with Polixeni Papapetrou. The courage of this artist, her consistency of vision and insightful commentary on life even while life itself is in the balance, are inspiring to all those that know her.

Papapetrou has always created her own language, integrating the temporal dissemination of the historical “case” into a two-dimensional space of simultaneity and tabulation (the various archetypes and ancient characters), into an outline against a ground of Cartesian coordinates.1 In her construction, in her observation and under her act of surveillance, Papapetrou moves towards a well-made description of the states of the body in the tables and classification of the psychological landscape. Her tableaux (the French tableau signifies painting and scene (as in tableau vivant), but also table (as in a table used to organize data)) are a classification and tabulation that is an exact “portrait” of “the” illness, the lost psyche of the title. Her images lay out, in a very visible way, the double makeover: of the outer and inner landscape.

These narratives are above all self-portraits. The idea that image, archetype and artist might somehow be one and the same is a potent idea in Papapetrou’s work. What is “rendered” visible in her art is her own spirit, for these visionary works are nothing less than concise, intimate, focused self-portraits. They speak through the mask of the commedia dell’ arte of a face half turned to the world, half immersed in imaginary worlds. The double skin (as though human soul, the psyche, is erupting from within, forcing a face-off) and triple skin (evidenced in the lack of depth of field of the landscape tableaux) propose an opening up, a revealing of self in which the anatomy (anatemnein: to tear, to open a body, to dissect) of the living is revealed. The images become an autopsy on the living and the dead: “a series of images, that would crystallize and memorize for everyone the whole time of an inquiry and, beyond that, the time of a history.”2

Papapetrou’s images become the “true retina” of seeing, close to a scientific description of a character placed on a two dimensional background (notice how the stylised clouds in The Antiquarian, 2014 match the fur hat trim). In the sense of evidence, the artist’s archetypes proffer a Type that is balanced on the edge of longing, poetry, desire and death, one that the objectivity of photography seeks to fix and stabilise. These images serve the fantasy of a memory: of a masked archetype in a made over landscape captured “exact and sincere” by the apparatus of the camera. A faithful memory of a tableau in which Type is condensed into a unique image: the visage fixed to the regime of representation,3 the universal become singular. This Type is named through the incorporated Text, the Legend: I am Day Dreamer, Immigrant, Merchant, Poet, Storyteller.

But even as these photographs seek to fix the Type, “even as the object of knowledge is photographically detained for observation, fixed to objectivity,”4 the paradox is that this kind of knowledge slips away from itself, because photography is always an uncertain technique, unstable and chaotic, as ever the psyche. In the cutting-up of bodies, cutting-up on stage, a staging aimed at knowledge – the facticity of the masked, obscured, erupting face; the corporeal surface of the body, landscape, photograph – the image makes visible something of the movements of the soul. In these heterotopic images, sites that relate to more stable sites, “but in such a way as to suspect, neutralize, or invert the set of relations that they happen to designate, mirror or reflect,”5 Papapetrou’s psyche, “creates the chain of tradition which passes a happening on from generation to generation.”6 In her commedia dell’ arte, an improvised comedy of craft, of artisans (a worker in a skilled trade), the artist fashions the raw material of experience in a unique way.7 We, the audience, intuitively recognise the type of person being represented in the story, through their half masks, their clothing and context and through the skilful dissemination of collective memory and experience.

Through her storytelling Papapetrou moves towards a social and spiritual transformation, one that unhinges the lost psyche. Her landscape narratives are a narrative of a recognisable, challenging, unstable non-linear art, an art practice that embraces “the speculative mystery of ancient roles…  They’re all souls with divided emotions, torn between dream and reality, who like us, converge on the collective stage that is the world.” They are archetype as self-portrait: portraits of a searching, erupting, questioning soul, brave and courageous in a time of peril. And the work is for the children (of the world), for without art and family, extinction.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

Footnotes

1. Adapted from Didi-Huberman, Georges. Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere (trans. Alisa Hartz). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003, p. 24-25. I am indebted to the ideas of Georges Didi-Huberman for his analysis of the ‘facies’ and the experiments of Jean-Martin Charcot on hysteria at the Hôpital Salpêtrière in Paris in the 1880s.
2. 
Ibid., p. 48
3. Ibid., p. 49
4. Ibid., p. 59
5. Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces,” in Diacritics Spring 1986, p. 24 quoted in Fisher, Jean. “Witness for the Prosecution: The Writings of Coco Fusco,” in Fusco, Coco. The Bodies That Were Not Ours. London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 226-227
6. Fisher, Ibid., p. 227-228
7. “One can go on and ask oneself whether the relationship of the storyteller to his material, human life, is not in itself a craftsman’s relationship, whether it is not his very task to fashion the raw material of experience, his own and that of others, in a solid, useful, and unique way.”
Benjamin
, Walter. Illuminations (trans. by Harry Zohn; edited by Hannah Arendt). New York: Schocken Books, 1968 (2007), p. 108

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Immigrant' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Immigrant
2014
From the series Lost Psyche 2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Storyteller' 2014

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (1960-2018)
The Storyteller
2014
From the series Lost Psyche 2014
Pigment print
100 x 150 cm

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou website

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30
Mar
18

Review: ‘Shadows of War: Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea, 1855’ at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

Exhibition dates: 9th November 2018 – 28th April 2019

PLEASE NOTE: I GOT THIS COMPLETELY WRONG – THE EXHIBITION STARTS 9 NOVEMBER 2018!

 

This portrait (below) shows Captain Alexander Leslie-Melville (1831-57), known as Lord Balgonie. He was the eldest son of the 8th Earl of Leven, a Scottish peer. Lord Balgonie served in the Grenadier Guards during the war, and died only a couple of years after returning to Britain. At the time, his death was attributed to the hardships of the war. Fenton has photographed him standing in front of a sheet, which serves as a make-shift studio and he looks unkempt and shaken, as if he has recently stepped off the battlefield. In recent years, this photograph has been described as the first photographic portrait of shell-shock. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Lord Balgonie' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Lord Balgonie
1855
Albumen print
17.7 x 11.7 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500273

 

 

The Crimean photographs of Roger Fenton represent the beginning of war photography. These staged photographs, documented for the edification of a viewing public back home in England and for the purpose of making money for the photographer, set the trend for the genre for the next 80 years. Staging photographs of war, and altering reality to suit the commercial, political or moral aspirations of photographer or institution, continues to this day.

For most of the images, “research for the exhibition has revealed that Fenton’s portraits and topographical views were principally intended as source material for the artist Thomas J Barker, who had been commissioned by Agnews to produce an oil painting of the senior officers of the allied forces. Barker used over 50 of Fenton’s images to create the monumental work The Allied Generals with the officers of their respective staffs before Sebastopol (private collection).” Fenton was fulfilling his commission and earning a living by taking photographs for a painter. But Fenton’s photographs are most successful when he has a personal connection to the subject matter, whether it be portrait or landscape. In other words, when he is not constructing or documenting as representation, but attempting to capture the spirit of person/place.

In portraiture, this personal connection can be seen in the photographs, Lord Balgonie (1855, above), Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan (1788-1855) (4 Jun 1855, below), Omar Pacha (1806-1871) (1855, below) and General James Bucknall Estcourt (1802-1855) (1855, below), a man deep in thought or, perhaps, melancholy. These are psychological portraits that attempt to get under the skin of the sitter, not mere representations for use as a template for painting.

The portraits of Baron Raglan and Omar Pacha are taken in the same location, probably at the same sitting. In the portrait of Baron Raglan, this man (soon to die) is relatively small in proportion to the overall framing of the photograph, his dark shadow falling on the wall behind, his hat and white plume pulled forward and out of focus in the image, incredibly large in comparison with the size of the body. In three-quarter profile he gazes out of the image, while the right and top of the image falls into soft, velvet darkness. By comparison, the portrait of Omar Pacha presents to us a much more self possessed and confident man. Fenton has moved the camera closer to his subject. No shadow falls on the wall behind and the light frames the head of the sitter perfectly. His bearing is upright but relaxed; his hands gently rest in his lap; and his gaze stares directly out of the image but not directly into the camera lens as though her is in deep thought somewhere beyond the photographer’s left shoulder. Both are magnificent portraits.

With regard to his landscapes of the Crimea the same feelings can be observed. One is the representational urge, the other the artistic. The first problem is the barrenness of the landscape and what to do with the inevitable horizon line. When photographing people in the landscape Fenton makes use of low depth of field either pulling the figures towards the front of the image (Sir John Miller Adye (1819-1900) 1855, and General Scarlett and Colonel Low Apr 1855, below) or the mid-distance (such as Captain and Mrs Duberly Apr 1855 and Colonel Doherty and the Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons 1855, below) whilst allowing the horizon line to float in the distance, either placed through the figures or floating above them. This low depth of field allows the horizon line to soften and the solid space around the figures to become ambiguous and fluid. It also allows the light in this vast expanse of country to do its duty, to illuminate the isolation of these figures “in the field.” A similar technique was used by Edward S. Curtis when photographing the Native American Indians against the vastness of country – low depth of field, letting the light and composition do the work as subject is located – or vanishes – into the landscape.

For the shear complexity of their visualisation, Fenton’s photographs of Balaklava are among my favourites. The placement of camera, the line of composition (ship masts, hills, horizon line, stacking of cannonball), the flattening of perspective (The Ordnance Wharf at Balaklava Mar 1855, below) and the tonality of the images are exemplary.

Taken a mere 15 years after the birth year of practical photography, Fenton’s “subtle and poetic interpretations” still resonate today. That he captured such acclaimed images using a heavy land camera, the photographs taken sometimes under fire, the glass plates prepared and developed in a ‘travelling darkroom’ – his horse drawn photographic van – make Fenton’s achievement all the more remarkable. The shadow of war that he captured, the presence of the men, women and landscapes of that time and place, are made alive to us today.

Note this

There is the date a photograph is made, and the date it is viewed. There is something about the different way a photograph exists in time, different from the date a poem is written and the date it is read, different from the date a painting is finished and the date it is viewed.

And then

Photographs remind us
of people, passing
They distill an essence
which
in turn
Instills in us
memory of time, place, spirit

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to The Queen’s Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

This is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on Roger Fenton’s pioneering photographs of the Crimean War, taken in 1855. Fenton was already an accomplished and respected photographer when he was sent by the publishers Agnew’s to photograph a war that pitched Britain, France and Turkey as allies against Russia. Arriving several months after the major battles were fought in 1854, Fenton focused on creating moving portraits of the troops, as well as capturing the stark, empty battlefields on which so many lost their lives.

Published in contemporary newspaper reports, Fenton’s photographs showed the impact of war to the general public for the first time. Through his often subtle and poetic interpretations Fenton created the genre of war photography, showing his extraordinary genius in capturing the futility of war.

 

 

Half a league,
half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

.
Lord Tennyson. The Charge of the Light Brigade

 

 

John Gilbert. 'The Queen Inspecting wounded Coldstream Guards in the Hall of Buckingham Palace, 22 February 1855' 1856

 

John Gilbert
The Queen Inspecting wounded Coldstream Guards in the Hall of Buckingham Palace, 22 February 1855
1856
Watercolour
138.0 x 214.5 x 13.0 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 451958

 

 

This painting depicts the second meeting with Guardsmen which took place at Buckingham Palace. The first meeting had been with the Grenadier Guards on 20 February 1855. The artist John Gilbert prepared a sketch of the event for the newspaper the Illustrated London News, published on 10 March 1855. He went on to create this painting using photographs of the soldiers for accuracy. Prince Albert supplied photographs of himself and the royal children. Gilbert was also given permission by the Queen to visit the Marble Hall in Buckingham Palace to recreate the scene. The scale of the watercolour caused a sensation when it was exhibited in 1856. Probably acquired by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Queen Victoria and Prince Albert' 1854

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
1854
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'A Zouave' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
A Zouave [Self-portrait as a Zouave]
1855
Salted paper print
18.2 x 14.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500562

 

 

The title of this work gives no indication that this is a self-portrait. Fenton has dressed himself in the uniform of a Zouave, a type of Algerian soldier who fought with the French army during the Crimean War. The Zouaves were admired both for their bravery and for their colourful dress. In 1855, when this photograph was exhibited for the first time, Fenton was Britain’s leading photographer but only a handful of fellow artists would have known that this was Fenton and not a Zouave soldier from the war. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Sir John Miller Adye (1819-1900)' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Sir John Miller Adye (1819-1900)
1855
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

 

The exhibition

Roger Fenton (1819-69) was the first photographer to document a war for public consumption. From March 1855, Fenton spent four months photographing the people and the terrain affected by the Crimean War, fought between the allied nations of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire against Russia.

Fenton’s time in the Crimea was relatively short given the war lasted over two years (October 1853 – March 1856) but his photographs captured, for the first time, the chaos and disorder of a war zone, and showed the Victorian public portraits of soldiers in the field, directly affected by battle. Although Fenton was fulfilling a commercial commission, he allowed himself to respond emotionally in his work and this is perhaps why his photographs continue to represent the Crimean War more effectively than any other visual record of the conflict.

This exhibition presents Fenton’s work within the wider context of the war, alongside other contemporary artists, photographers and writers also in the Crimea at that time. We begin with two sections which, through Fenton’s portraits, introduce some of the key individuals and events that occurred prior to Fenton’s arrival in the Crimea.

Subsequently we examine Fenton’s work in more detail, before considering the significant role played by the royal family in focusing the attention of the British public on the impact of war and the returning wounded veterans.

 

The Crimean War, 1853-6

The Crimean War, also known as the Russian War, pitched the allied nations of Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia against the Russian Empire. At its simplest, the war was fought to prevent Russia gaining territorial control of various regions in eastern Europe, then under Ottoman control, and of routes into British India. These regions included the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the Caucasus region and the Danubian provinces of modern-day Romania. Other more complex reasons included disputes over the control of religious sites and the protection of Christians in the Middle East, as well as concern over the declining influence of the Ottoman Empire and the growth of nationalism in various regions.

War with Russia had been publicly discussed for several years before Russian incursions into Romania, then under Ottoman control, led to a declaration of war from Constantinople in October 1853. Britain and France, fearing the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the growth of Russian power, followed with their support for the Ottomans by declaring war on Russia at the end of March 1854.

The conflict began in Europe and could have ended there in July 1854 when Russia began to withdraw but the European allies decided to confront Russia directly by besieging the Russian port of Sevastopol, an important naval base on the Crimean peninsula. The allies landed in the Crimea on 14 September 1854 and made their way towards Sevastopol, encountering the Russians in several major battles en route including Alma (20 September), Balaklava (25 October) and Inkerman (5 November). On 9 September 1855, after numerous other battles and skirmishes, Sevastopol fell to the allies.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan (1788-1855)' 4 Jun 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan (1788-1855)
4 Jun 1855
Albumen print
18.3 x 14.5 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500229

 

 

Lord Raglan (1788-1855) was a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars. He lost his right arm during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, whilst he was an aide to the Duke of Wellington. Despite having never commanded in the field, he was named as the expedition Commander-in-Chief in early 1854 when war seemed inevitable. He was to become the focus of heavy public criticism over the apparent poor organisation and logistics during the campaign. This criticism contributed to his declining health, and he died in the Crimea on 28 June 1855. He was succeeded as Commander-in-Chief by General James Simpson. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Lieutenant-General Burgoyne and his aide-de-camp Lieutenant Stopford' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Lieutenant-General Burgoyne and his aide-de-camp Lieutenant Stopford
1855
Salted paper print | 21.9 x 17.6 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500553

 

 

John Burgoyne (1782-1871) was a key member of the senior command during the war. After the Battle of Alma on 20 September 1854, Burgoyne proposed that the army march south of Sevastopol and besiege the city, rather than attacking the city from the north. This decision ultimately committed the allies to a siege of almost a year. Burgoyne returned to Britain in the winter of 1854-5 before Fenton arrived in the Crimea. As Fenton sought to photograph all the senior commanders from the war, he arranged this session in his London studio sometime after he returned to Britain in mid-July 1855. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'General Scarlett and Colonel Low' Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
General Scarlett and Colonel Low
Apr 1855
Albumen print
19.5 x 16.0 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500250

 

 

Sir James York Scarlett (1799-1871), here seated on a horse, played a key role in the Battle of Balaklava on 25 October 1854. The Charge of the Heavy Brigade, under Scarlett’s command, was a highly successful attack on the Russian army which has become overshadowed by the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade which occurred later during the same battle. Alexander Low (1817-1904) held the rank of Captain in the 4th Light Dragoons at the time of this photograph. He was a highly skilled cavalryman and served with distinction during the Charge of the Light Brigade. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Officers of the 8th Hussars' Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Officers of the 8th Hussars
Apr 1855
Albumen print
16.7 x 16.3 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500355

 

 

Fenton made a number of group portraits of men from the five Light Cavalry regiments that charged on 25 October. News of the action had caught the public imagination, and the names of the regiments became well-known. Fenton would probably have seen photographs of men who may have fought in the battle as having greater commercial potential. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

The Battle of Inkerman 5 November 1854

After Balaklava, the allied armies continued to besiege Sevastopol. The Russian army occupied a strong position between the city and the allies, and on 5 November 1854 they attempted to end the siege. The Battle of Inkerman saw fierce fighting hampered by thick fog, resulting in poor communication between the troops. Casualties were disproportionately high. The battle was a victory for the allies but it also committed the troops to a long winter in the Crimea.

Most of the injured soldiers were shipped to Scutari hospitals, near Constantinople. As the Inkerman wounded arrived, so too did Florence Nightingale and her nurses. During October, reports in The Times sent by William Howard Russell had described the poor care for the wounded and the lack of nurses. This led Sidney Herbert, Secretary of State for War, to ask Nightingale to lead a nursing party to Scutari. They arrived on 4 November 1854.

From Scutari, Nightingale made three visits to the Crimea, the first in May 1855 when she caught a serious illness that was to affect her for the rest of her life. By this time, Nightingale was already well-known to the British public and had been depicted in the press as the ‘Lady with the Lamp’. She returned to Britain in July 1856 and devoted much of the rest of her life to hospital and healthcare reform.

Inkerman

Roger Fenton produced this panoramic view of the Inkerman Valley, the scene of a fierce battle on 5 November 1854 that pitched the British and French allies against the Russian army. The battle took place in thick fog, resulting in troops becoming cut off from their commanders and a high number of casualties. Although the battle was an allied success, its impact was such that it extended the war by months, condemning the troops to the harsh winter of 1854–5 in the Crimea. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'The Ruins of Inkerman' May 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
The Ruins of Inkerman
May 1855
20.2 x 25.8 cm (image)
Albumen print
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'The Quarries and Aqueduct in the Valley of Inkerman' May 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)

May 1855
18.5 x 25.4 cm (image)
Albumen print
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Hardships in the Crimea' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Hardships in the Crimea
1855
Albumen print
17.6 x 16.2 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500388

 

Fenton took a number of staged photographs of camp life, including this group of the 4th Dragoon Guards. Generally, the titles of his portraits are the name of the sitter or regiment photographed, but this is one of a small number which have been given a more emotive title. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

 

Haunting images that brought the stark reality of war into public consciousness for the first time have gone on display in a new exhibition Shadows of War: Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea, 1855 at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London. Roger Fenton (1819-1869) was the first photographer to document conflict in such a substantial way at a time when the medium of photography was still in its infancy and there was no expectation of what ‘war photography’ should be.

Drawn entirely from the Royal Collection, the exhibition explores the impact and legacy of Fenton’s Crimean work, which is shown in Scotland for the first time since 1856. It also tells the story of the historically close relationship between the Royal Family and those who have served their country in battle, with contributions to the exhibition’s multimedia guide by Prince Harry, photojournalist Sir Don McCullin and exhibition curator Sophie Gordon.

One of the leading photographers of the 19th century, Roger Fenton was commissioned by the art dealer and publisher Thomas Agnew & Sons to photograph the officers and other people of interest during the Crimean conflict. On 20 February 1855 Fenton set sail for the Crimea on board HMS Hecla, accompanied by 36 chests of cameras, glass plates, chemicals, a stove and other pieces of equipment, and a wine merchant’s van converted into a travelling darkroom and accommodation for the photographer and his two assistants.

Research for the exhibition has revealed that Fenton’s portraits and topographical views were principally intended as source material for the artist Thomas J Barker, who had been commissioned by Agnews to produce an oil painting of the senior officers of the allied forces. Barker used over 50 of Fenton’s images to create the monumental work The Allied Generals with the officers of their respective staffs before Sebastopol (private collection). The painting reproduces some of Fenton’s portraits directly, including those of the Scottish General Sir Colin Campbell and The Times reporter William Howard Russell, as well as his photographs of camp life, such as 8th Hussars Cooking Hut.

Other figures within the painting, such as Barker’s depiction of Florence Nightingale, are clearly inspired by Fenton’s photographs. Although Nightingale was in the Crimea in 1855, she was a reluctant sitter for the camera and appears not to have been photographed by Fenton. Instead Barker’s portrait of her on horseback seems to be inspired by Fenton’s photograph Mr and Mrs Duberly.

In the 19th century there was a thriving market for prints of popular paintings. An engraving of Barker’s work was published in 1859 with a key to help the public identify the figures. The reproduction of the painting in newspapers and exhibitions of Fenton’s photographs raised awareness of the conditions endured by soldiers at a time when the wounded began to arrive home.

The concern and admiration for the veterans displayed by Queen Victoria and members of the royal family helped to highlight the plight of those returning from war. The Queen met groups of soldiers, visited military hospitals and inspected troops of veterans at Buckingham Palace. One such occasion was recorded by John Gilbert in The Queen inspecting wounded Coldstream Guardsmen in the Hall of Buckingham Palace, 22 February 1855. This large watercolour, which has hung at Sandringham House since it was acquired by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the future King Edward VII, is exhibited for the first time.

Queen Victoria was the first British monarch to meet and support wounded soldiers in public. Today Prince Harry’s work with veterans promotes a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country. On the exhibition’s multimedia guide His Royal Highness speaks about a number of Fenton’s images and how they helped change attitudes towards those affected by their experiences on the battlefield.

Speaking about Fenton’s image Lord Balgonie, the first visual record of someone suffering from ‘shell shock’ Prince Harry says in the multimedia guide: ‘There has always been a fascination about people returning from war, what they’ve been through and what they’ve seen. The psychological impact of being on the battlefield is something that servicemen and women have had to deal with, but have often found it hard to talk about. As a result of photographers like Roger Fenton and those who have followed him, the public have gained a better appreciation of these experiences and consequently, over the years this fascination has turned to appreciation and respect.’

Press release from The Queen’s Gallery

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Photographic Van' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Photographic Van
1855
Albumen print
17.4 x 15.9 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500439

 

 

Fenton’s ‘travelling darkroom’ was the only space he had in which to prepare his glass plates before they were exposed in the camera, and afterwards, to develop the negative image. Beyond a few test prints, however, Fenton would not have done any significant printing of photographs in the Crimea. All the negatives were transported back to Britain and printed there. This photograph was probably taken shortly before Fenton went into the ‘Valley of the Shadow of Death’. He later wrote in a letter, perhaps half-jokingly, that he feared the van being destroyed by enemy fire in the valley so he felt he should preserve its memory in a photograph. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Fenton’s Crimean Commission: 8 March – June 1855

Fenton was commissioned to go to the Crimean War by the Manchester-based publishers Thomas Agnew & Sons. Agnew’s was one of the leading publishers, print sellers and dealers at the time, and the firm saw the war as an opportunity to sell new images to a public hungry for information. The war coincided with an increased number of public art exhibitions as the middle classes in particular had more time and money to spend on leisure activities.

At the same time, Agnew’s also commissioned the British historical painter Thomas Barker (1815-82) to produce a large oil painting depicting the expected allied victory at Sevastopol. Fenton’s photographs were to be used as source material by Barker. This enabled the artist to claim absolute truthfulness and accuracy in his portraits.

Barker incorporated versions of at least 50 of Fenton’s photographs into his painting. Some photographs have been copied almost exactly; others have been reversed or combined with other images, with elements from some photographs appearing alongside people from other works. The painting was completed in 1856 and the associated engraving was published by Agnew’s in 1859. A key was also produced, identifying each individual in the work, in which Fenton’s role was explicitly acknowledged.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Valley of the Shadow of Death' 23 Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Valley of the Shadow of Death
23 Apr 1855
Albumen print
25.7 x 35.0 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500514

 

 

Perhaps Fenton’s most well-known photograph, ‘The Valley of the Shadow of Death’, is not in fact the location of the charge of the Light Brigade. When Fenton reached the ravine seen in this photograph, he found himself the target of enemy fire. Even so, Fenton managed to make at least two distinct views: the version seen here, and another in which far fewer cannon balls lie on the ground, indicating that he re-arranged one of the scenes. This photograph, which has become one of Fenton’s most famous compositions, demonstrates the power of the camera at war. The scene is still and almost barren, but the power of the imagination draws the viewer into the landscape and the title, with its reference to Psalm 23, suggests that we walk between the realms of life and sudden death. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

James Robertson (1813-88) 'Valley of the Shadow of Death' 1855-1856

 

James Robertson (1813-88)
Valley of the Shadow of Death
1855-1856
Salted paper print
22.3 x 29.2 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500723

 

 

Neither Robertson’s photograph nor Simpson’s lithograph show the same location as Fenton’s image, despite all three works having the same title. The full phrase from Psalm 23 from which the title comes is ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil’. It is reported that the British soldiers gave the ravine its name. The emotive pull of Fenton’s composition is all the more apparent when compared with Robertson’s photograph and Simpson’s lithograph, although the round shot in Simpson’s work links it visually to Fenton’s photograph.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Omar Pacha (1806-1871)' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Omar Pacha (1806-1871)
1855
Salted paper print
17.6 x 14.2 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500341

 

 

Omar Pacha (1806-71) was the commander of the Ottoman army at the beginning of the war, when the Russian incursions into the Balkan regions began. He was later to win a significant victory against the Russians at the Battle of Evpatoria on 17 February 1855 in the Crimea. Omar Pasha was photographed several times by Fenton, both seated and on horseback. A number of commanding officers were photographed in this way. It was probably to give the artist Thomas Barker a variety of poses which could be incorporated into his painting. Omar Pasha does appear on a horse in the final painting, but his head is a copy of this seated portrait. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Colonel Brownrigg and the two Russian boys Alma and Inkerman' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Colonel Brownrigg and the two Russian boys Alma and Inkerman
1855
Salted paper print
16.8 x 15.5 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500375

 

 

This portrait shows Colonel Brownrigg of the Grenadier Guards, with two Russian boys who were apparently taken prisoner by the British. In a letter from 29 April 1855 to his wife, Fenton described what happened, ‘Tell Annie [Fenton’s daughter] there are two Russian boys here who both would like to come to England which will she have Alma or Inkermann, such are their new names. One is an orphen [sic] the other has or had his parents in the town. They went out nutting last autumn & were taken, cried sadly but now would cry to go back’. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Cooking house, 8th Hussars' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Cooking house, 8th Hussars
1855
Albumen print
15.3 x 19.6 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500384

 

 

This beautifully composed group was incorporated almost entirely into Barker’s painting, although the woman standing at the back of the group was omitted. It is easily identifiable on the left-hand side of the painting. Fenton made a handful of photographs which try to capture the camp life of the ordinary soldier. The 8th Hussars were one of the regiments involved in the Charge of the Light Brigade and this association would give the photograph greater interest to the Victorian public. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Maréchal Pélissier, Duke of Malakoff (1794-1864)' Jun 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Maréchal Pélissier, Duke of Malakoff (1794-1864)
Jun 1855
Albumen print
17.9 x 15.5 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500327

 

 

Fenton made several portraits of General Pélissier (1794-1864), on horseback and seated. Barker probably used this particular photograph to paint the general, who as the French Commander-in-Chief at the time of the final assault on Sevastopol in Summer 1855, features prominently in his painting. Pélissier had taken command of the French army on 16 May 1855, replacing General François Canrobert. He brought with him the energy and determination required to bring the siege of Sevastopol to a conclusion. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Captain and Mrs Duberly' Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Captain and Mrs Duberly
Apr 1855
Albumen print
15.2 x 16.0 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500314

 

 

Frances Isabella Duberly (1829-1902), known as Fanny, accompanied her husband Captain Henry Duberly (1822-91), Paymaster of the 8th Hussars, to the war against the orders of Lord Raglan. She kept a journal of her experience, which included witnessing the Battle of Balaklava. She was also one of the first civilians to enter Sevastopol after it fell to the allies. Mrs Duberly attempted to dedicate the published version of her journal to Queen Victoria, titled Journal Kept During the Russian War, but this was refused. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Wounded Zouave and Vivandiere' 5 May 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Wounded Zouave and Vivandiere
5 May 1855
Salted paper print
17.4 x 15.8 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500401

 

 

The vivandières, also known as cantinières, were attached to French regiments to supply the troops with food and drink beyond the standard rations. In a letter to his wife, Fenton described how he photographed this group on 5 May, ‘In the afternoon a Cantiniere was brought up I made first a picture of her by herself & then a group in which she is giving assistance to a wounded soldier. It was great fun the soldiers enjoyed it so much & entered so completely into the spirit of the thing’. This group was incorporated into Barker’s painting, although the composition was reversed. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Vivandière' 5 May 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Vivandière
5 May 1855
Albumen print
17.4 x 13.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500338

 

 

This striking portrait was taken at the same time as the earlier group photograph with the ‘wounded soldier’. The vivandières usually dressed in a feminised version of the uniform of the regiment to which they were attached. There were women attached to the British regiments, known as sutlers, who helped with food, drink and domestic duties. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Colonel Doherty and the Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Colonel Doherty and the Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons
1855
Salted paper print
14.6 x 19.0 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500354

 

 

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doherty (d. 1866) was the commanding officer of the 13th Light Dragoons on the day of the Battle of Balaklava. His regiment was part of the Light Brigade, and his men participated in the famous charge. However, due to illness, Doherty did not join the battle. Doherty’s replacement that day, Captain John Oldham, was killed in the battle. Fenton probably photographed this group in anticipation of the interest in regiments who formed the Charge of the Light Brigade. Some of the men included in the group were amongst the chargers. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Ismael Pacha receiving his chibouque' 27 Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Ismael Pacha receiving his chibouque
27 Apr 1855
Albumen print
17.2 x 16.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500427

 

 

Ismael Pacha (1813-65), also known as György Kmety, fought against the Russians in the 1848 Hungarian Revolution. After its failure and the harsh Russian reprisals, he joined the Ottoman army. Fenton took a series of photographs of Ismael Pacha receiving a pipe from his servants. Both Ismael Pacha and his Nubian servant, seen to the right of this photograph, appear in Barker’s painting The Allied Generals. Presumably acquired by Queen Victoria.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Ismael Pacha receiving his chibouque' 27 Apr 1855 (detail)

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Ismael Pacha receiving his chibouque (detail)
27 Apr 1855
Albumen print
17.2 x 16.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500427

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'View from Cathcart's Hill' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
View from Cathcart’s Hill
1855
Albumen print
24.1 x 33.7 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500534

 

 

This photograph shows the British camps as seen from Cathcart’s Hill, the main British cemetery in the Crimea. The cemetery took its name from the grave of Sir George Cathcart, a senior military officer who was killed during the Battle of Inkerman. The hill was also used as an observation point as from it commanders could view the progress of the Siege of Sevastopol. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'General James Bucknall Estcourt (1802-1855)' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
General James Bucknall Estcourt (1802-1855)
1855
Albumen print
20.5 x 15.2 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500239

 

 

General Estcourt was a chief staff officer during the difficult first winter in the Crimea. He was among those most strongly criticised by the public and the press for the suffering of the army, although he was defended by his close friend Lord Raglan. He died of cholera in the Crimea in June 1855. The photograph is hard to interpret. It can be seen as someone taking a break from military concerns but it could also be a portrait of illness and exhaustion. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Sir William Howard Russell (1820-1907)' Jun 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Sir William Howard Russell (1820-1907)
Jun 1855
Albumen print
18.1 x 15.3 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500306

 

 

William Howard Russell was a reporter for The Times who rose to fame during the Crimean War for his vivid descriptions of major battles and the conditions faced by British troops. The Crimean War was the first conflict where advances in technology allowed newspapers to quickly print reports from their correspondents in the field. These reports attracted great public interest and influenced both official and public attitudes to the war. Russell’s emotive account of the Charge of the Light Brigade, published in The Times on 13 November 1854, inspired the poem of the same name by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Sir Colin Campbell' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Sir Colin Campbell
1855
Albumen print
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

 

Balaklava – the British base

When the British and French armies moved south to besiege Sevastopol, they had to choose a location in which to base themselves. The armies needed to be able to receive both men and supplies without hindrance for what might be many months. The French based themselves at Kamiesch, whilst the British chose Balaklava. The army took over the town, setting up its own infrastructure including a Post Office and constructing a military railway to transport the supplies as close as possible to the front lines.

When Fenton arrived in the Crimea on 8 March 1855, he disembarked at Balaklava. He took his first photographs on 15 March and spent the next two weeks exploring the port. He described the place in a letter as ‘one great pigsty’, noting the chaos and confusion which he managed to convey in his photographs.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Railway sheds and workshops at Balaklava' 15 Mar 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Railway sheds and workshops at Balaklava
15 Mar 1855
Albumen print
20.9 x 26.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500463

 

 

This photograph clearly shows the scale of activity in Balaklava. There are ships in the harbour, and supplies (probably flour bags) are piled high on the water’s edge. In the foreground in ‘Railway Yard’ the new military railway is being constructed. It was paid for by Samuel Morton Peto (1809-89) who had also provided Fenton’s passage to the Crimea. Construction of the railway began in February 1855 and part of the line was in use within weeks, probably around the same time that Fenton arrived at Balaklava. The railway was dismantled in 1856 after the end of the war. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Guards Hill Church Parade Balaklava in the distance' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Guards Hill Church Parade Balaklava in the distance
1855
Salted paper print
26.1 x 35.3 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500530

 

 

Towards the end of March, Fenton made a number of views from ‘Guards Hill’ looking down towards the harbour of Balaklava. The ‘church parade’ referred to in the title is the parade of Scots Fusilier Guards seen to the right of the image. Although the group is indistinct, the bearskin hats of the Guards can be clearly distinguished. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Cossack Bay Balaklava' Mar 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Cossack Bay Balaklava
Mar 1855
Albumen print
26.8 x 35.6 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500498

 

 

Despite the title, Cossack Bay is only slightly visible in the middle distance of this photograph. The main view with the ships, including one bearing the number ’69’, centres around Cattle Pier. The ship with the transport number 69 is the Albatross, which at the time of this photograph had recently arrived from Constantinople after a four-day journey bringing Mary Seacole (1805-81). Mrs Seacole set up a store and ‘hotel’ for British servicemen, supplying food, drink and medical supplies. In 1857 Mrs Seacole published an autobiographical account of her life and experiences in the Crimea, titled Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'The Ordnance Wharf at Balaklava' Mar 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
The Ordnance Wharf at Balaklava
Mar 1855
Albumen print
20.5 x 25.2 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500461

 

 

The Ordnance Wharf was the place where military supplies arrived – the British army’s Board of Ordnance was responsible for supplying weapons and ammunition, which can be clearly seen in the foreground of this photograph. The round shot is stacked awaiting transportation on the railway to reach the army camps besieging Sevastopol. The performance of the Board of Ordnance came under heavy criticism during the Crimean War, particularly during the 1854-5 winter. As a result, after a 400 year existence, the Board was abolished and its responsibilities were transferred to the War Office. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Balaklava from the Russian Church, Upper Harbour, and Church of Kadikoi in the distance' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Balaklava from the Russian Church, Upper Harbour, and Church of Kadikoi in the distance
1855
Albumen print
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

 

After the war

Fenton left the Crimea on 22 June 1855, so missed the fall of Sevastopol. He arrived back in Britain on 11 July. Queen Victoria saw a selection of his work in August, whilst she was at Osborne House, and Fenton visited France in early September to show his photographs to the Emperor.

Fenton also began preparations for the display of his work at numerous venues across Britain. Hundreds of prints would have been required for the 26 venues identified so far, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Exeter, Cardiff, Belfast and Dublin. Fenton also managed to photograph some of the significant individuals he had been unable to capture in the Crimea, in order to complete his commission for Agnew’s.

The photographs were extraordinarily popular with the public. One publication stated that two million visitors had seen the photographs by the end of March 1856. It is unlikely that this translated into financial success for Fenton, however. At the end of 1856 Agnew’s sold the negatives and remaining prints to a rival print seller, who continued to sell the work at a much lower price. Fenton continued his association with the royal family, travelling to Balmoral in September 1856 where he photographed the royal children.

 

Felice Beato (1832-1909) 'The Docks after the Explosion' 1856

 

Felice Beato (1832-1909)
The Docks after the Explosion
1856
Salted paper print
23.7 x 28.7 cm (image)
RCIN 2500683

 

 

James Robertson’s business partner and brother-in-law, Felice Beato, returned to Sevastopol in March or April 1856 to make a further set of photographs. By then the docks had been destroyed. Viewed together, these photographs provide a record of the changing landscape of the city in the aftermath of the war. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Fenton’s photographic process

Fenton made his photographs by printing from glass negatives, using a process called the wet collodion process. The negatives were then shipped back to Britain where they were used to make prints in two different ways – the salted paper print and the albumen print.

The wet collodion process used a prepared piece of glass which, in the darkroom, would be coated with collodion and then made light-sensitive with further chemicals. Before the plate could dry, it would be placed in the camera and exposed. Then the plate would be returned to the darkroom and developed, rinsed, fixed, washed, dried and varnished. It was then ready for printing.

The salted paper print used paper which had been prepared by coating it in a salted solution. After drying, it would be made light-sensitive in the darkroom and then placed in a frame in contact with the glass negative to be exposed to sunlight. Once the image had appeared satisfactorily on the paper, the print would be processed, washed, fixed and toned.

 

 

The Queen’s Gallery
Buckingham Palace,
London, SW1A 1AA

Opening hours:
Open daily 10.00 – 17.30

Closures:
13 November – 7 December
24 December last admission 14.45, closes at 16.00
25 – 26 December

Royal Collection Trust website

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16
Mar
18

Exhibition: ‘Quicksilver Brilliance: Adolf de Meyer Photographs’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 4th December 2017 – 18th March 2018

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Water Lilies' c. 1906, printed 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Water Lilies
c. 1906, printed 1912
Platinum print
26.1 x 35.2 cm (10 1/4 x 13 7/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

The critic Charles H. Caffin described this photograph by de Meyer as “a veritable dream of loveliness.” It is one of several floral still life de Meyer made in London around 1906-9, when he was in close contact with Alvin Langdon Coburn, a fellow photographer and member of the Linked Ring. Both men were inspired by the Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1906 book The Intelligence of Flowers, a mystical musing on the vitality of plant life. De Meyer exhibited several of his flower studies, including this platinum print, at Stieglitz’s influential Photo-Secession galleries in New York in 1909. The image also appeared as a photogravure in an issue of Stieglitz’s art and photography journal Camera Work.

 

 

While the “facts of Baron Adolf de Meyer’s early life have been obscured by contradictory accounts from various sources (including himself); he was born in Paris or Germany, spent his childhood in both France and Germany, and entered the international photographic community in 1894-1895,” by circa 1897-1900 he had assumed the title of “Baron.”

“In editions dating from 1898 until 1913, Whitaker’s Peerage stated that de Meyer’s title had been granted in 1897 by Frederick Augustus III of Saxony, though another source states “the photographer inherited it from his grandfather in the 1890s”. Some sources state that no evidence of this nobiliary creation, however, has been found.” (Wikipedia) He then married Donna Olga Caracciolo in 1899, “reputedly the illegitimate daughter of the British king Edward VII, who enjoyed a privileged position within the fashionable international set surrounding the monarch.” The marriage was one of convenience, since he was homosexual and she was bisexual or lesbian, but it was based on a perfect understanding and companionship between two people. As de Meyer observed in an unpublished biography, “Marriage based too much on love and unrestrained passion has rarely a chance to be lasting, whilst perfect understanding and companionship, on the contrary, generally make the most durable union.”

Meyer “gained recognition as a leading figure of Pictorialism and a member of the photographic society known as the Linked Ring Brotherhood in London. Alfred Stieglitz exhibited de Meyer’s work in his Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession and published his images as photogravures in his influential journal Camera Work.” In the early 20th century, he was famed for his photographic portraits and was the preeminent fashion photographer of the day; he was also the first official fashion photographer for the American magazine Vogue, appointed to that position in 1913-14 until 1921. In 1922 de Meyer accepted an offer to become the Harper’s Bazaar chief photographer in Paris, spending the next 16 years there until he was forced out, his romantic style out of fashion with the modernist taste of the day.

I state these facts only to illustrate the idea that here was a “gay” of dubious lineage (reportedly born in Paris and educated in Dresden, Adolphus Meyer was the son of a German Jewish father and Scottish mother) who rose to associate with and photograph the upper echelons of society. He made it, and he made it good. His photographs of the well to do, film stars and fashion models are undoubtedly beautiful and his control of light magnificent, but they seem to me to be, well… constructed confections. His photographs of the elite and the fashion that they wore possess an ethereal beauty, de Meyer’s shimmering control of light adding to the photographs sense of enacted fantasy played out in the form of timeless classical elegance.

But there is that lingering doubt that these photographs were both his job and his entré (along with the connections and money of his wife) into high society. Look, for example, at the self-portrait of de Meyer in this posting. In the 1900 self-portrait in India when he was 32 and on his honeymoon, we see a coiffed, almost androgynous man who in his pose is as stiff as a board – his body contorted in the strangest way, the right hand gripping the arm of the cane chair, the left splayed and braced, ramrod straight against the seat and the feet crossed in the most unnatural manner. No matter the beautiful light and attractive setting, this is the image that this man wants to portray to the world, this is a man who thinks he has arrived. It is an affectation. And in the portrait of the aristocrat and patron of the avant-garde, Count Etienne de Beaumont (c. 1923, below), this is how he sees himself, as part of that elite. Because in the end, he was. But there is little feeling to any of his portrait work: style, surface, light, form and “the look” reign supreme. Only when he is so overwhelmed by stardust, such as in the brilliant photographs of Josephine Baker and her scintillating personality, does the mask of affection drop away.

Of more interest to me are his early photographs of Japan where you feel he has some personal investment in the work. The “tactile elegance of his early work” was influenced by “Japanese aesthetics, as well as the influence of the painter James McNeill Whistler, a key figure of the Aesthetic movement.” The photograph View Through the Window of a Garden, Japan (1900, below) is an absolute cracker, as are the Japanese influenced Water Lilies (c. 1906, below) and The Shadows on the Wall (Chrysanthemums) (1906, below). In her review of the exhibition on the Collector Daily website, Loring Knoblauch states, “While De Meyer’s scenes from Japan, his travel photos of his wife Olga at the Acropolis and in St. Moritz, and his experiments with autochromes in the early 1900s are also included in this eclectic sampler, these rarities aren’t particularly compelling or noteworthy, aside from their supporting role in filling out a broader picture of the artist and his life.” Aren’t particularly compelling! I beg to differ.

I don’t know how people look at photographs and interpret them so differently to how I see them. Perhaps I just feel the music, I see these photographs as if I were taking them, as a personal investment in their previsualisation. While I get very little from de Meyer’s fashion photographs I get a whole lot of pleasure and delight from his transcendent earlier work. I most certainly feel their energy. You only have to look at the reflection of the water lilies. Need I say more.

Marcus

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

 

A member of the “international set” in fin-de-siècle Europe, Baron Adolf de Meyer (1868-1946) was also a pioneering photographer, known for creating works that transformed reality into a beautiful fantasy. Quicksilver Brilliance will be the first museum exhibition devoted to the artist in more than 20 years and the first ever at The Met. Some 40 works, drawn entirely from The Met collection, will demonstrate the impressive breadth of his career.

The exhibition will include dazzling portraits of well-known figures of his time: the American socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig; art patron and designer Count Étienne de Beaumont; aristocrat and society hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell; and celebrated entertainer Josephine Baker, among others. A highlight of the presentation will be an exceptional book – one of only seven known copies – documenting Nijinsky’s scandalous 1912 ballet L’Après-midi d’un faune. This rare album represents de Meyer’s great success in capturing the movement and choreography of dance, a breakthrough in the history of photography. Also on view will be the artist’s early snapshots made in Japan, experiments with colour processes, and inventive fashion photographs.

  • 13 platinum prints, 1900, 1906, 1907, 1912, 1917
  • 2 photogravures, 1908, 1912
  • 2 carbon prints, 1900, 1925-1926
  • 1 autochrome in lightbox (facsimile), 1908
  • 4 gelatin silver prints, 1912, 1923, 1925, 1928
  • 1 set of 9 gelatin silver prints (framed together), 1890s-1910
  • 1 trichrome carbro print, 1929
  • 6 collotypes, 1914 (with full collotype book showing 1 image in nearby vitrine, 1914)
  • 4 magazine spreads (in bound volumes of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, 1913, 1919, 1927, in vitrine)

 

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Nude Models Posing for a Painting Class]' 1890s

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Nude Models Posing for a Painting Class]
1890s
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Lunn Gallery, 1980

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Adolf de Meyer Photographing Olga in a Garden]' 1890s

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Adolf de Meyer Photographing Olga in a Garden]
1890s
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Lunn Gallery, 1980

 

 

Like many Pictorialist photographers, de Meyer became interested in the camera through collecting and making snapshots of family and close friends. Olga de Meyer (née Caracciolo) was his companion and muse until her death in 1931. Rumoured to be the illegitimate daughter of the British king Edward VII, she enjoyed a privileged position within the fashionable international set surrounding the monarch. De Meyer made numerous portraits of Olga throughout their famously chic and eccentric life together (in 1916 the couple changed their names to Gayne and Mharah on the advice of an astrologer).

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Self-Portrait in India]' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Self-Portrait in India]
1900
Platinum print
14.8 x 19.8 cm. (5 13/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
Gift of Isaac Lagnado, 1995

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Self-Portrait in India]' (detail) 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Self-Portrait in India] (detail)
1900
Platinum print
14.8 x 19.8 cm. (5 13/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
Gift of Isaac Lagnado, 1995

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Amida Buddah, Japan]' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Amida Buddah, Japan]
1900
Platinum print
19.2 x 14.3 cm. (7 9/16 x 5 5/8 in.)
Purchase, Mrs. Jackson Burke Gift, 1981

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Ueno Tōshō-gū, Tokyo, Japan' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Ueno Tōshō-gū, Tokyo, Japan
1900
Platinum print
14.5 x 19.8 cm. (5 11/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
Purchase, Mrs. Jackson Burke Gift, 1981

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Olga de Meyer, Japan' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Olga de Meyer, Japan
1900
Platinum print
19.3 x 15.1 cm. (7 5/8 x 5 15/16 in.)
Purchase, Mrs. Jackson Burke Gift, 1981

 

 

Framed by the gridded panels of a sliding screen door, Olga de Meyer pauses from her reading to look languidly at the camera. De Meyer made this affectionate photograph of his new wife while on their honeymoon to Japan. The composition suggests his interest in Japanese aesthetics, as well as the influence of the painter James McNeill Whistler, a key figure of the Aesthetic movement. In its rebellion against Victorian morals, the movement sought inspiration from outside the European tradition. De Meyer’s travels in Japan – as well as China, Ceylon, India, North Africa, Turkey, and Spain – nourished Orientalist fictions, and gave rise to the subjects and compositions of many of his photographs.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[View Through the Window of a Garden, Japan]' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[View Through the Window of a Garden, Japan]
1900
Platinum print
13.8 x 20.3 cm. (5 7/16 x 8 in.)
Purchase, Mrs. Jackson Burke Gift, 1981

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'The Shadows on the Wall (Chrysanthemums)' 1906

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
The Shadows on the Wall (Chrysanthemums)
1906
Platinum print
34.7 x 26.7 cm (13 11/16 x 10 1/2 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

Focusing his camera not on a still life per se, but on its evanescent trace, de Meyer creates a composition that approaches abstraction. He later applied a similar handling of light and shadow to enhance the drama of his fashion photographs. Here, the shadow of a vase of flowers cast onto the wall has the effect of a Japanese lacquered screen.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'The Silver Cap' c. 1909, printed 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
The Silver Cap
c. 1909, printed 1912
Gelatin silver print
45.7 x 27.6 cm. (18 x 10 7/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

Born in Paris, Baron Adolf de Meyer settled in London in 1896. With his wife, Donna Olga Caraciollo, he joined the elegant set surrounding the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, Olga’s godfather. They entertained lavishly, including concerts and small fancy-dress balls, which gave de Meyer a chance to devise marvellous costumes for Olga. Likely inspired by the de Meyers’ involvement with the Ballets Russes and time spent at their villa on the Bosporus, this dress features Ottoman elements such as the full skirt and decorative trimmings yet conforms to the Western fitted waistline – a fine example of the 1910s fashion trend of exoticism.

 

 

A member of the “international set” in fin-de-siècle Europe, Baron Adolf de Meyer (1868-1946) was also a pioneering art, portrait, and fashion photographer, known for creating images that transformed reality into a beautiful fantasy. The “quicksilver brilliance” that characterised de Meyer’s art led fellow photographer Cecil Beaton to dub him the “Debussy of the Camera.” Opening December 4 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art,

Quicksilver Brilliance: Adolf de Meyer Photographs will be the first museum exhibition devoted to the artist in more than 20 years and the first ever at The Met. Some 40 works, drawn entirely from The Met collection, will reveal the impressive breadth of his career.

The exhibition will include dazzling portraits of well-known figures of his time: the American socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig; art patron and designer Count Étienne de Beaumont; aristocrat and society hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell; and celebrated entertainer Josephine Baker, among others. A highlight of the presentation will be an exceptional book – one of only seven known copies – documenting Nijinsky’s scandalous 1912 ballet L’Après-Midi d’un Faune. This rare album represents de Meyer’s great success in capturing the choreography of dance, a breakthrough in the history of photography. Also on view will be the artist’s early snapshots made in Japan, experiments with colour processes, and inventive fashion photographs.

Born in Paris and educated in Germany, de Meyer was of obscure aristocratic German-Jewish and Scottish ancestry. He and his wife, Olga Caracciolo, goddaughter of Edward VII, were at the center of London’s café society.

After starting in photography as an amateur, de Meyer gained recognition as a leading figure of Pictorialism and a member of the photographic society known as the Linked Ring Brotherhood in London. Alfred Stieglitz exhibited de Meyer’s work in his Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession and published his images as photogravures in his influential journal Camera Work. At the outbreak of World War I, de Meyer settled in the United States and applied his distinctive pictorial style to fashion imagery, helping to define the genre during the interwar period.

The exhibition was organized by Beth Saunders, Assistant Curator in The Met’s Department of Photographs.

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Tamara Karsavina' c. 1908

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Tamara Karsavina
c. 1908
Autochrome
9 x 11.9 cm (3.5 x 4.6 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005

 

 

De Meyer enthusiastically embraced the autochrome process at its inception in 1907, writing to Stieglitz the following year that his work in black and white no longer satisfied him. An ardent admirer of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, de Meyer created this image of Tamara Karasavina (1885-1978), a leading dancer and partner to Nijinksy, during one of the company’s visits to England. The photographer chose a background of bellflowers and arranged a brocaded shawl to enhance the exotic elegance of the dancer.

The autochrome, which retains in its minuscule prisms the particular luminosity of a misty English day in summer, was thought to represent the Marchioness of Ripon in her garden at Coombe, Surrey. An early patron of de Meyer, Lady Ripon was also a staunch supporter of Diaghilev, bringing the Ballets Russes to London in 1911. She frequently entertained Karasavina and Nijinsky at Coombe, where they danced for Alexandra, the queen consort, and de Meyer dedicated to her his album documenting Nijinsky’s production of L’Après-midi d’un faune. A companion image to this autochrome is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Lady Ottoline Morrell]' c. 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Lady Ottoline Morrell]
c. 1912
Platinum print
23.5 x 17.4 cm (9 1/4 x 6 7/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005

 

 

Adolph de Meyer’s portrait of Lady Ottoline Morrell, eccentric hostess to Bloomsbury, is a stunning summation of the character of this aristocratic lady who aspired to live “on the same plane as poetry and as music.” Rebelling against the narrow values of her class, Lady Ottoline Cavendish Bentinck (1873-1938) married Philip Morrell, a lawyer and liberal Member of Parliament, and surrounded herself in London and on their estate at Garsington with a large circle of friends, including Bertrand Russell, W. B. Yeats, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, and E. M. Forster. Tall, wearing fantastic, scented, vaguely Elizabethan clothes, Lady Ottoline made an unforgettable impression. With her dyed red hair, patrician nose, and jutting jaw, she could look, according to Lord David Cecil, at one and the same moment beautiful and grotesque. Henry James saw her as “some gorgeous heraldic creature – a Gryphon perhaps or a Dragon Volant.”

De Meyer made several portraits of Lady Ottoline. None went as far as this one in conjuring up the sitter’s flamboyant persona, capturing, through dramatic lighting and Pre-Raphaelite design, her untamed, baroque quality. “Her long, pale face, that she carried lifted up, somewhat in the Rossetti fashion, seemed almost drugged, as if a strange mass of thoughts coiled in the darkness within her.” D. H. Lawrence’s inspired description of the character based on Lady Ottoline in “Women in Love” finds a vivid counterpart in the photographer’s art.

 

Baron Adolf De Meyer (American, born France, 1868-1946) 'The Cup' c. 1910

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
The Cup
c. 1910
Gum bichromate print

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Olga de Meyer' c. 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Olga de Meyer
c. 1912
Platinum print
22.4 x 16.4 cm (8 13/16 x 6 7/16 in.)
Gift of Paul F. Walter, 2009

 

 

Renowned for her beauty and style, de Meyer’s spouse was, in a sense, his first fashion model. Here, dramatic backlighting emphasises her sinuous form, enshrouded in shimmering fabric and fur. Her gaze conveys a haughty bemusement that elevates the tableau from costume play to regal sophistication.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Dance Study]' c. 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Dance Study]
c. 1912
Platinum print
32.7 x 43.5 cm (12 7/8 x 17 1/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

De Meyer photographed the dancer Nijinsky and other members of Diaghilev’s troupe when “L’Après-midi d’un Faun” was presented in Paris in 1912. It has been suggested that this photograph, the only nude by de Meyer, has some connection to the Russian ballet, but if so, it remains mysterious. It has been suggested that this photograph, the only nude by de Meyer, has some connection to the Ballets Russes, but the nature of that link remains mysterious. The image vibrates with an uneasy erotic tension, a product of the figure’s exposed torso, startled body language, and disguised identity.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Le Prelude à l'Après-Midi d'un Faune' 1914

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Le Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune
1914
Collotypes
Album: 15 1/4 x 11 5/8
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

 

In 1912 de Meyer made a remarkable series of photographs related to the Ballets Russes production L’après-midi d’un faune (Afternoon of a Faun). The avant-garde dance was choreographed by famed Russian performer Vaslav Nijinsky, set to a score by Claude Debussy, and inspired by a poem by Symbolist writer Stéphane Mallarmé. It follows a young faun distracted from his flute-playing by bathing nymphs who seduce and taunt him, leaving behind a scarf with which he allays his desire. When the ballet premiered in Paris on May 29, 1912, the overtly sexual climactic scene and unconventional choreography scandalised audiences. Nijinsky based the angular movements and frieze-like staging on Greek vase paintings, but Ballets Russes founder Sergei Diaghilev also likened them to Cubism.

Thirty of de Meyer’s photographs of the ballet were published as collotypes (photomechanical ink prints) in a 1914 edition of one thousand luxurious handcrafted books. Only seven copies are known today. Using alternately complex and fragmentary compositions, de Meyer’s images generate a rhythm of gesture and form. The thin Japanese papers offer a tactile echo of the diaphanous costumes (designed by artist Léon Bakst), and the heavily manipulated negatives enshroud the angular figures in a dreamlike haze. An object of desire, the book itself embodies the spirit of Nijinsky’s ballet.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Nijinsky [Plate from Le Prelude à l'Après-Midi d'un Faune]' 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Nijinsky [Plate from Le Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune]
1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Nijinsky [Plate from Le Prelude à l'Après-Midi d'un Faune]' 1914

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Nijinsky [Plate from Le Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune]
1914

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Image from "Prelude à l'Après-Midi d'un faune"]' 1914

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Image from “Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un faune”]
1914
Platinum print
4 3/16 × 7 1/16 in. (10.6 × 17.9 cm)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Mrs. Walter Annenberg and The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 2005

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Rita de Acosta Lydig' 1917

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Rita de Acosta Lydig
1917
Platinum print
41.5 x 30.9 cm. (16 5/16 x 12 3/16 in.)
Gift of Mercedes de Acosta, 1952

 

 

De Meyer’s portrait of the socialite, art patron, “shoe queen,” and suffragette Rita de Acosta Lydig is striking in its simplicity of tone and contour. The image, which appeared in Vogue in 1917, resonates with the classical elegance epitomised in the paintings of society portraitists John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, who also depicted this so-called alabaster lady.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Portrait of the Marchesa Casati' 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Portrait of the Marchesa Casati
1912
Plate from Camera Work No. XL August 1912

 

 

Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino (23 January 1881 – 1 June 1957), also known as Luisa Casati, was an Italian heiress, muse, and patroness of the arts in early 20th-century Europe. …

A celebrity, the Marchesa was famed for eccentricities that dominated and delighted European society for nearly three decades. The beautiful and extravagant hostess to the Ballets Russes was something of a legend among her contemporaries. She astonished society by parading with a pair of leashed cheetahs and wearing live snakes as jewellery. (Wikipedia)

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Study for Vogue [Jan 1-1918, Betty Lee, Vogue, page 41]' 1918-21

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Study for Vogue [Jan 1-1918, Betty Lee, Vogue, page 41]
1918-21
Gelatin silver print

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Dolores' 1921

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Dolores
1921
Gelatin silver print

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Etienne de Beaumont [Count Etienne de Beaumont (French, 1883-1956)]' c. 1923

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Etienne de Beaumont [Count Etienne de Beaumont (French, 1883-1956)]
c. 1923
Gelatin silver print
23.7 x 18.6 cm (9 5/16 x 7 5/16 in.)
Gift of Paul F. Walter, 2009

 

 

An aristocrat and patron of the avant-garde, Count Etienne de Beaumont cuts a dashing figure here, posed in one of the grand salons of his hôtel (grand townhouse) in Paris’s rue Masseran. The count hosted a series of legendary masquerade balls at his residence during the interwar period, attended by avant-garde artists such as Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, and Man Ray. De Meyer described these parties, which he and Olga often attended, as “fêtes of unsurpassed magnificence” in a 1923 article for Harper’s Bazaar.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Portrait of Josephine Baker' 1925

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Portrait of Josephine Baker
1925

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Josephine Baker' 1925-26

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Josephine Baker
1925-26
Direct carbon print
45.2 x 29.5 cm (17 13/16 x 11 5/8 in.)
Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987

 

 

The Saint Louis, Missouri-born Josephine Baker arrived in Paris in 1925 and quickly made a sensation as part of the all-black Revue Nègre, a musical entertainment that capitalised on the French craze for American Jazz. Famously donning a banana skirt for her danse sauvage, Baker crafted performances that astutely deployed the stereotypes white Europeans associated with blackness, recouping them as instruments of her own empowerment and success. Baker shines amid the glittering backdrop and soft focus of de Meyer’s photograph, creating an iconic image of stardom.

 

Gertrude Käsebier. 'Baron Adolf de Meyer' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier
Baron Adolf de Meyer
1903
Platinum print
13 3/8 x 10″ (34 x 25.5 cm)
Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Miss Mina Turner

 

Gertrude Käsebier. 'Baron Adolf de Meyer (Leaning Against Tree)' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier
Baron Adolph de Meyer (Leaning Against Tree)
1903
Platinum photograph
8.5 x 6.5 in.

 

Sarah Choate Sears (American, 1858-1935) 'A Mexican [Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)]' 1905

 

Sarah Choate Sears (American, 1858-1935)
A Mexican [Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)]
1905
Platinum print
24.2 x 18.7 cm. (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

With his brow arched beneath a tilted hat and hand elegantly grasping a stark white scarf, de Meyer dons a mysterious alter ego. Like de Meyer, Sears was involved with the two major groups devoted to art photography: the Photo-Secession and the Linked Ring Brotherhood. The two artists may have met through a mutual friend, the photographer F. Holland Day, who included their work in his exhibition “New School of American Photography,” on view in London in 1900 and Paris the following year. The title for this portrait follows a Photo-Secession tradition of withholding the sitter’s name when exhibiting publicly.

Sarah Choate Sears (1858-1935) was an American art collector, art patron, cultural entrepreneur, artist and photographer. …

About 1890 she began exploring photography, and soon she was participating in local salons. She joined the Boston Camera Club in 1892, and her beautiful portraits and still lifes attracted the attention of fellow Boston photographer F. Holland Day. Soon her work was gaining international attention. …

In 1899 she was given a one-woman show at the Boston Camera Club, and in 1900 she had several prints in Frances Benjamin Johnson’s famous exhibition in Paris. … In 1907, two of her photographs were published in Camera Work, but by that time she had lost much of her interest in photography. (Wikipedia)

 

 

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09
Mar
18

Review: ‘Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco’ at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th November 2017 – 12th March 2018

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I’m going through changes' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I’m going through changes
2016
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
200.0 x 180.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

Hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo

Meaningless talk or activity / a form of words used by a person performing conjuring tricks.
Language or ritual causing or intended to cause confusion or bewilderment.

 

I have never been convinced by the work Del Kathryn Barton and this medium-sized exhibition at NGV Australia does absolutely nothing to change my mind.

Replete with the artist’s usual cacophony of tits, vulva and penises, the works mine various forms: sculpture, drawing, painting, film and collage; have multiple influences: Louise Bourgeois, Max Ernst, Barbara Kruger to name a few; and investigate numerous concepts such as the fluidity of gender, the link between human and animal forms, women’s genitalia and the blooming of flowers, the ornate decoration of species, “the strength of women, the visceral power of female sexuality and … Barton’s multiple interests in feminism, nature and the maternal figure.” Too much she cried!

Barton has a certain facility in the drawing of line, but this is too often overwhelmed by her inability to let negative space speak for itself. Every work is filled to the brim with vacuous detail, then overlaid with multicoloured polka dots in both collages and paintings (see the detail of her work in the face of cosmic odds, 2016 below), as though this device will tie all the works together. Her signature paintings of women have surface presence, are “just so meticulously attractive”, but absolutely lack what Barton is seeking – “so inexplicably intimate, so beyond, so seemingly effortless that there can be no defence. In these moments there is an opening-up within the body, the mind, within all the senses …” I felt nothing of that when looking at these works – no connection to an inner self or ‘the vast ocean of the collective-consciousness’.

Barton’s inability to engage the viewer in an intimate dialogue of body and mind can be seen in both text and graphic.

“today my body is feeling love
you fell into my flesh…… and we are fresh…… again
the unflesh are so clean somehow….. and their stirrings inform our smallness….. so that we are still small”

You fell into my flesh and we are fresh again. Please.

Then you look at the line work in volcanic woman (2016, below) as “these women erupt upward, as molten liquid bodies of agency. They display their genitals as though it is from their vaginas that the Earth’s energy spills forth,” and note the caricaturesque drawings lack any sense of intimacy or sensuality despite the subject matter. I think about Barton’s hero Louise Bourgeois and her work “10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME” (2006, below). Both works are displayed in a grid and produced in the same colour but the difference could not be more stark: Bourgeois’ use of negative space, the quiet sensitivity, eroticism and the superb intimacy of the work is the antithesis of Barton’s sexual megalomania. So often in art, less is more but Barton never seems to understand the adage.

To use Christopher Allen’s turn of phrase about the NGV Triennial, Barton’s works are “frenetically busy, but inherently insipid,” despite the overabundance / reliance on the display of sexual organs and excretions. While the artist desperately wants the viewer to be drawn into an intimate embrace with the supposed psychological and spiritual meanings of the work, the lack of emotional, sensual or erotic sensation negates any feeling towards it. Barton’s meaninglessness talk using confusing iconographies lays a surface trap for the viewer, taken in by decoration and sexual abundance. But if you look beyond the psychedelic aesthetic and decorative surfaces it’s just a conjuring trick, ritual representation as pseudo-spiritual experience.

Marcus

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

 

The NGV presents a major solo exhibition of one of Australia’s most popular artists, Del Kathryn Barton. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco reveals the artist’s imaginative and deeply sensuous world, where ornately decorated species – both human and animal – are rendered in seductive line and colour. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco is a survey of new and recent work by the two times Archibald Portrait Prize winner that reveals the breadth of Barton’s practice. Featuring comprehensive displays of recent paintings and drawings for which she is arguably best known, the exhibition also includes collage, sculpture, textiles and film, all drawn together by the artist’s exuberant and psychedelic aesthetic.

 

 

“The creatures are so gorgeous. They’re just so meticulously attractive, I’m never repulsed. Without the darkness Barton seems to think is there, what is left? Passive psychedelia? I believe Barton feels intensely, but a second-hand trip, like a dream told to a friend, is never as emotional as the teller thinks it is.”

.
Victoria Perrin1

 

“I had a weak-at-the-knees, tingle-all-over moment when I saw Louise Bourgeois’ work for the first time about fifteen years ago in Los Angeles. Yes I am a CRAZY fan. And, yes, it’s true I lay under her big spider in Tokyo and cried…

These are the releases I hope for in our vast world of art. Encounters when the artwork is somehow so inexplicably intimate, so beyond, so seemingly effortless that there can be no defence. In these moments there is an opening-up within the body, the mind, within all the senses … an experience of recognition, relief and awe that informs one’s deeper creative makeup.”

.
Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the inside another land series (2017, detail)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

 

In this series of seventy-five montages that combine digital collage with hand painted details, Barton creates post-human visions in which women’s bodies are both human and plant. The Dadaists used collage to access the Freudian domain of the unconscious mind, and the great Dada artist Hannah Höch was a key proponent of photomontage in her exploration of the role of women in a changing world. Like the Surrealists, Barton uses collage as a method to critique the illusion of a defined and orderly world, in favour of absurdity. The visual delirium of these works induces a kind of hallucinatory experience in which new creatures seem possible.

It is widely understood that flowers symbolise female sexuality: their physical resemblance to women’s genitalia is coupled with an associative significance in their blooming, which invokes the creation of new life in birth. The history of floral representation strongly binds femininity and flowers, from the Greek nymph Chloris and her Roman counterpart Flora, who oversaw spring and flowers, to Sigmund Freud who was very clear on the matter: ‘Blossoms and flowers represent the female genitals, or more particularly, virginity. Do not forget that the blossoms are really the genitals of the plants’. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
inside another land (details)
2017
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'you’re not a bit ashamed' 2017

 

Del Kathryn Barton
you’re not a bit ashamed
2017
Synthetic polymer paint and ink on paper
152.0 x 194.0 cm (image and sheet)
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'to speak of anger, I will take care' 2017

 

Del Kathryn Barton
to speak of anger, I will take care
2017
Synthetic polymer paint and ink on paper
152.0 x 194.0 cm (image and sheet)
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work briefly turned into dreams (2016)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'briefly turned into dreams' 2016 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
briefly turned into dreams (detail)
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Del Kathryn Barton
come home to me
2014-2017
Gouache and ink on hot pressed paper
Collection of the artist. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and A3

 

 

The flexibility of language is revealed in come home to me. Barton loves language but at the same time questions its ability to communicate. The floating words are a strategy for awakening us to the various, infinite and slippery meaning of words. Like poetry, Barton’s fiercely non-didactic texts are open to diverse understandings. There is no wrong or right interpretation of these texts. Without dictating the associations these words create in each of our minds, Barton evokes sensual delights and pleasures of the flesh. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work come home to me (2014-2017)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'mud monster' 2014 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'mud monster' 2014 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
mud monster (details)
2014
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the I am flesh again series (2008)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the I am flesh again series (2008)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I am flesh again' 2008 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I am flesh again (detail)
2008
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the photogravure work the stars eat your body (2009) and the bronze up in this (2012) top; and the bronze i can grow you more, drunk on its own nectar (2017) bottom

 

 

Two-time Archibald prize-winner Del Kathryn Barton is being celebrated in the largest ever exhibition of her work to date at NGV Australia. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco features 150 new and recent works by Barton, including her famed kaleidoscopic portraits, a never-before-seen large-scale sculpture in homage to her mother and Barton’s short film RED, starring Australian actress and Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett.

‘With a practice spanning art, fashion and film, Barton’s psychedelic images reveal her personal responses to the human experience. She is one of Australia’s most popular artists, renowned for her highly intricate and distinctive hybrid forms, that break down boundaries between humans and nature’, said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV.

This show is deeply personal for Barton with the debut of her new sculpture, at the foot of your love, which has been created in response to her mother’s terminal illness. Completed in 2017 and comprised of printed silk and Huon pine, the sculpture is reflective of Barton’s reoccurring themes of motherhood and nature. Featuring a wooden conch shell and an enormous silk ‘handkerchief’, the work is symbolic of Barton’s grief for her own mother.

Comprised of five panels and over 10 metres in length, sing blood-wings sing is Barton’s newest and largest painting to date. The painting features a female-focused reimagining of the 1963 Peter, Paul and Mary coming-of-age song, Puff the Magic Dragon. Barton often listens to the folk tune whilst working in her studio as a symbolic reminder to maintain her childlike curiosity through her artistic practice. Barton’s interpretation of the song and its meaning is depicted by four breasted, rainbow coloured dragons. In her signature style, she blurs human, mythological and animal representations in art, encouraging her audience to see how imagination and desire can test traditional forms.

The exhibition also features Barton’s acclaimed film RED, where Cate Blanchett plays a mother re-enacting the redback spider’s deadly mating ritual, alongside actor Alex Russell, Sydney Dance Company’s Charmene Yap and Barton’s own daughter Arella. In RED Barton conveys the strength of women, the visceral power of female sexuality and encapsulates Barton’s multiple interests in feminism, nature and the maternal figure.

Born in Sydney in 1972, Barton graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney, in 1993. She won her first Archibald prize in 2008 for her self-portrait with her two children and then again in 2013 for her portrait of Australian actor Hugo Weaving.

Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco is one of five solo exhibitions by leading Australian artists for NGV Australia’s 2017-18 summer program. The exhibition is on display at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne from 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018.

Press release from the NGV

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

sing blood-wings sing (2017)

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018.
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'the highway is a disco' 2015

 

Del Kathryn Barton
the highway is a disco
2015
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
Private collection, Austria
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I want to love you' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I want to love you
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work at the foot of your love (2017)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work at the foot of your love (2017)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

at the foot of your love  (2017) was made by Barton as she prepared for her mother’s death. The fabric represents a handkerchief for the tears of all children who mourn their mother’s departure. The wooden conch shell is envisaged by the artist as a boat on which to sail into the darkness of eternity and ‘the vast ocean of the collective-consciousness’. It celebrates home and place, since the Huon Pine tree, from which the work is made, is a precious and endangered timber of Australia, subject to decay. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'of pink planets' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
of pink planets
2014
Collection of Boris Tosic, Sydney
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

In this work a creature with the head of a wallaby and the tail of a snake looks as though it might suckle from one of the woman’s five breasts. The breast is a dual organ, both of pleasure and sustenance, and multiple breasts suggest abundant life energy. Symbolically, the multi-breasted woman recalls the mythological icon Artemis of Ephesus, goddess of the wilderness, the hunt, wild animals and fertility. In some interpretations of the iconography, the nodes on Artemis’s chest are said to be the testes of bulls sacrificed to her. This fluidity of gender, human and animal forms is a strong current in Barton’s art. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'openly song' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
openly song
2014
Private collection, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'or fall again' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
or fall again
2014
Collection of Leonard Warson, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

The tangled and lush floral decoration of Barton’s paintings recreates the millefleur (1000 flowers) technique of late Middle Ages to early Renaissance tapestries, distinguished by a lack of uniform pattern. The medieval period is sometimes perceived as a time of pagan superstition when the mysteries of nature and humanity were still full of wonder and darkness, and the unknown and unexplained were revered. Barton’s works evoke this period and direct viewers to a mysteriously interconnected world where spirit, psyche, natural cycles and the body are interconnected in intimate, unknowable relationships. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work or fall again (2014)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work in the face of cosmic odds (2016)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'See ya mumma' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
See ya mumma
2016
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
140.0 x 160.0 cm
Collection of Brooke Horne, Sydney
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'is the energy' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
is the energy
2014
Private collection, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'girl as sorcerery figure' 2005

 

Del Kathryn Barton
girl as sorcerery figure
2005
Collection of Jane Badler, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Del Kathryn Barton
girl #8 (installation view)
2004
Fibre-tipped pen, gouache, watercolour and synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Art Gallery of New South Wales
© Del Kathryn Barton
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006  Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006 Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006

 

Louise Bourgeois
“10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME” (details)
2006
Etching, ink, watercolour, pencil and gouache on paper

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the volcanic women series 2016-
Photo: © Tom Ross

 

 

‘I, too, overflow; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows unheard-of songs. Time and again I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst.’

HÉLÈNE CIXOUS, THE LAUGH OF THE MEDUSA (1975)

 

In this new series of works, entitled volcanic women, Barton coaxes and melts women into and out of the Earth’s larval core. Bodies flow from the ground, emerging as hot red lines of ink. These women erupt upward, as molten liquid bodies of agency. They display their genitals as though it is from their vaginas that the Earth’s energy spills forth. Barton here celebrates the abundance and generative necessity of women’s desire and sexual vigour. The suppression of women’s sexuality by a culture of fear is melted away in these volcanic works. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'volcanic woman' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
volcanic woman
2016
From the volcanic women series 2016-
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the volcanic woman series (2016)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

 

“The film is split into sections titled MOTHER, FATHER, LIFE, DEATH and DAUGHTER. When it comes time for the father to feature, he is accompanied by a shot of a car revving. When the spider arrives (in a wonderful dance performed by Charmene Yap), she moves in an incredibly enthralling manner, but she’s writhing on a muscle car. The performance of gender isn’t twisted, it moves straight past the iconic and into the parodic. But it’s not supposed to be a parody of the deadly spider that eats its mate, it’s dead serious. Barton has no intimation of the taboo and genuinely titillating danger that Bourgeois could reproduce in spades. Then it hits me, everything in Barton’s world is conventionally beautiful, yet we’re supposed to find it shocking. I don’t see women reflected in her vision of “hyper-women”, I see great beauties, I see movie stars and high-fashion models.”

Victoria Perrin1

 

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
Stills from RED
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

‘Mother of otherness Eat me’

SYLVIA PLATH, POEMS FOR A BIRTHDAY (1960)

 

Sylvia Plath’s words open Barton’s first short film, RED. The human maternal figure at the heart of this work (played by Cate Blanchett) is interchangeable with a red-back spider. Alongside Blanchett, Barton’s daughter, Arella Plater, and actor Alex Russell portray the nuclear family, and Sydney Dance Company’s Charmene Yap is the arching, writhing spider. The film explores women’s desire and maternal experience. In the realm of recent art history, the mother-spider recalls American sculptor Louise Bourgeois’s massive, looming arachnids. Bourgeois is one of Barton’s greatest influences and represented spiders in a renowned series begun in 1994 and continued until the end of her life in 2010. Like Plath and Bourgeois before her, in this work Barton has rendered the overwhelming complexities and contradictions of motherhood. (Wall text)

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

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Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
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Closed Mondays

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25
Feb
18

Review: ‘All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed’ at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 13th January – 3rd March 2018

Curator: Samantha Comte

Artists: Broersen and Lukács, Kate Daw, Peter Ellis, Dina Goldstein, Mirando Haz, Vivienne Shark Le Witt, Amanda Marburg, Tracey Moffatt, Polixeni Papapetrou, Patricia Piccinini, Paula Rego, Lotte Reiniger, Allison Schulnik, Sally Smart, Kiki Smith, Kylie Stillman, Tale of Tales, Janaina Tschäpe, Miwa Yanagi, Kara Walker and Zilverster (Goodwin and Hanenbergh).

Review synposis: Simply put, this is the best local exhibition I have seen this year. A must see before it closes.

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Hanging Rock 1900 #3' 2006

 

Polixeni Papapetrou
Hanging Rock 1900 #3
2006
Pigment ink print
105 x 105 cm
Courtesy the artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney + Berlin and Jarvis Dooney Galerie, Berlin

 

 

Oh my, what big teeth you have! Wait just a minute, they need a good clean and they’re all crooked and subverted (or a: how well-known stories are turned on their head and b: how real histories become fantasies, and how fantasies are reimagined)

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This is going to be the shortest review in the known universe. Just one word:
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SUPERLATIVE

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Every piece of artwork in this extraordinary, quirky, spellbinding exhibition (spread over the three floors of the The Ian Potter Museum of Art at The University of Melbourne) is strong and valuable to the investigation of the overall concept, that of fairy tales transformed.

The hang, the catalogue, and the mix of a: international and local artists; b: historical and contemporary works; and c: animation, video, gaming, sculpture, photography, painting, drawing and other art forms – is dead set, spot on.

There are too many highlights, but briefly my favourites were the historical animations of Lotte Reiniger; the painting Born by Kiki Smith which adorns the catalogue cover; the theatrical tableaux of Polixeni Papapetrou; the mesmerising video art of Allison Schulnik; and the subversive etchings of both Peter Ellis and Mirando Haz. But really, every single artwork had something interesting and challenging to say about the fabled construction of fairy tales and their place in the mythic imagination, a deviation from the normative, patriarchal telling of tales.

My only regret, that a: there hadn’t been another three floors of the exhibition; b: that there was only one work by Kiki Smith; and c: that there were not another set of disparate voices other than the feminine and black i.e. transgender, gay, disabled – other artists (if they exist?) that were working with this concept.

Simply put, this is the best local exhibition I have seen this year. A must see before it closes.

Marcus

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Many thankx to The Ian Potter Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Installation photographs by Christian Capurro.

 

All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed, the Ian Potter Museum of Art’s 2017 summer show, traces the genre of the fairy tale, exploring its function in contemporary society. The exhibition presents contemporary art work alongside a selection of key historical fairy tale books that provide re-interpretations of the classic fairy tales for a 21st-century context, including Little Red Riding HoodHansel and Gretel and The Little Mermaid.

 

Ground floor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Lotte Reiniger with Cinderella/Aschenputtel (1922) at left

 

 

Lotte Reiniger (born 1899, Berlin-Charlottenburg, Germany; died 1981, Dettenhausen, West Germany)
Cinderella/Aschenputtel
1922
Silhouette animation film
Primrose Productions
Directed and animated by Lotte Reiniger
Production team: Carl Coch, Louis Hagen, Vivian Milroy Music: Freddie Phillips
12.35 minutes
Footage courtesy of BFI National Archive, London

 

 

Lotte Reiniger began making her ground-breaking animations in Berlin during the 1920s. Influenced by early fairy tale illustrations, in particular, Andrew Lang’s The Blue Fairy (1887), Reiniger was attracted to the graphic nature of the imagery but also the compelling complexities of fairy tale narratives. Adapting the art of shadow puppetry, she created more than forty intricately crafted fairy tale films.

In 1935, she left Berlin for England, in response to the unjust treatment of the Jewish people. World War II had an enduring impact on Reiniger’s work and life. For example, when she made Hansel and Gretel, in 1953-54, she changed the ending of the narrative from the Brothers Grimm original, in which the witch is burnt in the over after being tricked by the children, because the taboo nature of this imagery was understandably too close to the horrors of the Holocaust. From her first film, Reiniger was attracted to the timelessness of fairy tale stories for her animations. Aschenputtel (Cinderella) (1922) was among her first filmic subjects and is amongst the words presented here. While Reiniger belonged to the cinematic avant-garde, working in independent production and experimental film making, her spirit harked back to an earlier age of innocence. (Wall text)

 

 

Lotte Reiniger
Hansel and Gretel/Hänsel und Gretel
1953/1954
Silhouette animation film
Primrose Productions
Directed and animated by Lotte Reiniger
Production team: Carl Coch, Louis Hagen, Vivian Milroy Music: Freddie Phillips
10:19 minutes
Footage/Image courtesy of BFI National Archive, London

 

 

Lotte Reiniger
The Sleeping Beauty/Dornrӧschen
1953-1954
Silhouette animation film
Primrose Productions
Directed and animated by Lotte Reiniger
Production team: Carl Coch, Louis Hagen, Vivian Milroy
Music: Freddie Phillips
10:03 minutes
Footage/Image courtesy of BFI National Archive, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Lotte Reiniger (left) and Sally Smart (right)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing Sally Smart’s work Blaubart (The Choreography of Cutting) 2017

 

 

Sally Smart‘s Blaubart (The Choreography of Cutting) is a complex assemblage of elements and ideas that relate to Smart’s recent work on the Russian Fairy tale, Chout (1921) where she found connections to Perrault’s murderous tale of Blue Beard, a lurid story about a noble man who marries numerous women killing each of them and storing their bodies in an underground bloody chamber.

Smart’s work explores this narrative by combining the blue and black silhouetted forms from Lotte Reiniger’s animation of The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) with the black and white photographs of a modern dance performance of Blue Beard devised by Pina Bausch, a noted German dance choreographer. In Smart’s dramatic work a series of hanging dresses and wigs stand in for blue beards wives, whose bodies, in the story, were gruesomely hung from hooks. Blue Beard is a story of violence and betrayal that contains one of the most powerful fairy tale symbols, that of the forbidden room and the quest for knowledge. While we often try to make sense of the world through chronological narrative, Smart’s work suggests that it is the disconnected layers of experiences, stories, images and sensations that lead to a rich life of possibility. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Sally Smart (born 1960, Quorn, South Australia; lives and works Melbourne, Victoria)
Blaubart (The Choreography of Cutting) (detail)
2017
Mixed media installation
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist and Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Miwa Yanagi (left to right, Little Match Girl 2004; Gretel 2004; Untitled IV 2004; and Erendira 2004)

 

 

Japanese photographer, Miwa Yanagi constructs elaborate and complex images that examine the representation of women in contemporary Japanese society. Her third major series of works, Fairy tales focuses on a key theme, that of the young girl moving into womanhood and her relationship to the older woman.

Recasting the familiar tales of Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, Yanagi explores the complex relationship between old women and young girls, often presented as the witch and the innocent princess. In this series, Yanagi returns to traditional methods of photography, creating complex backdrops, lighting and costumes. She dresses some of the young girls in wigs, make up and masks to look old and witch-like, creating a strangely unresolved image of an old woman with a young body, playing with the idea of binaries – innocence and heartlessness, maturity and youth. (Wall text)

 

Miwa Yangi. 'Gretel' 2004

 

Miwa Yanagi (born in born in 1967 in Kobe, Japan; lives and works in Kyoto, Japan)
Gretel
2004
Gelatin silver print
116 x 116 cm (framed)
Collection of the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Amanda Marburg (right) and Miwa Yanagi (left)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Amanda Marburg (Juniper Tree 2016; Hansel and Gretel 2016; Maiden without hands 2016; Death and the Goose boy 2015; The Golden Ass 2016; Hans My Hedgehog 2016; Briar Rose 2016; and All Fur 2016)

 

 

Amanda Marburg has an enduring fascination with the macabre, referencing dark tales from film, literature and art history to create distinctive paintings that often picture sinister and menacing subjects within brightly rendered, plasticine environments. In this body of work, Marburg looks to the famous Brothers Grimm tales, particularly the first edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, published in 1812. The brothers were dedicated to collecting largely oral folk tales from their German heritage, and among the first hey collected were narratives that told of the brutal living conditions of the time. In the better known 1857 edition of their Grimm’s Fairy Tales, more than thirty of the original stories have been removed from the earlier publication including ‘Death and the Goose Boy’ and ‘Juniper Tree’. These stories were often cautionary tales that encompassed gritty themes such as cannibalism, murder and child abuse and while they were popular when first published, they were deemed unsuitable for the later edition. (Wall text)

 

Amanda Marburg (born 1976, Melbourne Australia; lives and works in Melbourne, Australia) 'Maiden without hands' 2016

 

Amanda Marburg (born 1976, Melbourne Australia; lives and works in Melbourne, Australia)
Maiden without hands
2016
Oil on linen
122 x 92 cm
Courtesy the artist and Sutton Gallery, Melbourne

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Lotte Reiniger (left), Sally Smart (middle), and Miwa Yanagi (right)

 

Broersen and Lukács. 'Mastering Bambi' (video still) 2011

 

Mastering Bambi Preview, 2010 – Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukács from AKINCI Gallery on Vimeo.

 

 

Walt Disney’s 1942 classic animation film Bambi is well known for its distinct main characters – a variety of cute, anthropomorphic animals. However, an important but often overlooked protagonist in the movie is nature itself: the pristine wilderness as the main grid on which Disney structured his ‘Bambi’. One of the first virtual worlds was created here: a world of deceptive realism and harmony, in which man is the only enemy. Disney strived to be true to nature, but he also used nature as a metaphor for human society. In his view, deeply rooted in European romanticism, the wilderness is threatened by civilisation and technology. The forest, therefore, is depicted as a ‘magic well’, the ultimate purifying ‘frontier’, where the inhabitants peacefully coexist. Interestingly, the original 1924 Austrian novel Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten (banned in 1936 by Hitler) shows nature (and human society) more as a bleak, Darwinist reality of competition, violence and death.

Broersen and Lukács recreate the model of Disney’s pristine vision, but they strip the forest of its harmonious inhabitants, the animals. What remains is another reality, a constructed and lacking wilderness, where nature becomes the mirror of our own imagination. The soundtrack is made by Berend Dubbe and Gwendolyn Thomas. They’ve reconstructed Bambi’s music, in which they twist and fold the sound in such a way that it reveals the dissonances in the movie. (Text from AKINCI Gallery)

 

Broersen and Lukács. 'Mastering Bambi' (video still) 2011

 

Broersen and Lukács (Persijn Broersen born in Delft, The Netherlands in 1974 and Margit Lukács, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in 1973; both live and work in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Paris, France)
Mastering Bambi (video still)
2011
HD video
12:30 minutes
Courtesy of the artists and Akinci, Amsterdam

 

 

All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed, the Ian Potter Museum of Art’s 2017 summer show, traces the genre of the fairy tale, exploring its function in contemporary society. The exhibition presents contemporary art work alongside a selection of key historical fairy tale books that provide re-interpretations of the classic fairy tales for a 21st-century context, including Little Red Riding HoodHansel and Gretel and The Little Mermaid.

Featuring international and Australian contemporary artists including Kiki Smith, Patricia Piccinini, Amanda Marburg, Miwa Yanagi, Kara Walker, Allison Schulnik, Tracey Moffatt, Paula Rego, Broersen and Lukacs and Peter Ellis, All the better to see you with explores artists’ use of the fairy tale to express social concerns and anxieties surrounding issues such as the abuse of power, injustice and exploitation.

Curator, Samantha Comte said: “Fairy tales help us to articulate the way we might see and challenge such issues and, through transformation, triumph in the end. This exhibition looks at why fairy tales still have the power to attract us, to seduce us, to lure us and stir our imagination.”

A major exhibition across all three levels of the museum, the exhibition will be accompanied by a raft of public and education programs. American artist Kiki Smith uses fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood as a metaphor to express her feelings about the feminist experience in patriarchal culture. The Portuguese-British artist Paula Rego has constructed the same tale as a feminist farce, with Red Riding Hood’s mother flaunting the wolf ‘s pelt as a stole. Japanese photographer Miwa Yanagi, in her “Fairy Tale” series has created large scale images enacted by children and adolescents in which playfulness and cruelty, fantasy and realism, merge.

The theme of the lost child in the forest is played out through tales such as Snow White and Hansel and Gretel. Tracey Moffatt’s Invocations series of 13 images is composed of three disjointed narratives about a little girl in a forest, a woman and man in the desert and a foreboding horde of spirits. The little girl lost in the forest is familiar from childhood fairy tales, and the style of these images is reminiscent of Disney movies.

Broersen and Lukacs’ powerful video work, Mastering Bambi depicts the forest as a mysterious, alluring and sinister place. Often the setting of a fairy tale, the forest is used as a metaphor for human psychology. Australian artist Amanda Marburg, in her series How Some Children Played at Slaughtering looks to the stories that both excited and haunted generations of children and adults the infamous Grimm’s fairy tales. The melancholy of Marburg’s subjects is counteracted by her use of bewitching bright colour, which creates fairy tale-like landscapes with deceptive charm.

Fairy tales can comfort and entertain us; they can divert, educate and help shape our sense of the world; they articulate desires and dilemmas, nurture imagination and encapsulate good and evil. All the Better to See You With invites us to delve into this shadowy world of ancient stories through the eyes of a diverse range of artists and art works.

Press release from the Ian Potter Museum of Art

 

Second floor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Paula Rego at left; Kylie Stillman’s Scape (2017) middle; and Kiki Smith’s Born (2002) at right

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Paula Rego (from left to right, Happy Family – Mother, Red Riding Hood and Grandmother, 2003; Red Riding Hood on the Edge, 2003; The Wolf, 2003; The wolf chats up Red Riding Hood, 2003; Mother Takes Her Revenge, 2003; and Mother Wears the Wolf’s Pelt, 2003)

 

 

Portuguese born, British based artist Paula Rego subverts traditional folk stories and fairy tales, adapting these narratives to reflect and challenge the values of contemporary society, playing with feminine roles in culturally determined contexts and turning male dominance on its head.

In Little Red Riding Hood (2003), Rego presents an alternative telling of this well-known story. Her suite of paintings is based on Charles Perrault’s version of this fairy tale Le Petit Chaperon Rouge, 1695 in which the girl and the grandmother are eaten by the wolf, rather than the more famous Grimm version in which the girl and the grandmother survive after being rescued by a male protagonist. Rego reshapes the story for a contemporary context, reflecting on current ideas around gender roles in society and casting the mother as a sharply dressed avenger who overcomes the man-wolf without the aid of a male rescuer. (Wall text)

 

Paula Rego. 'The wolf chats up Red Riding Hood' 2003

 

Paula Rego
The wolf chats up Red Riding Hood
2003
Pastel on paper
104 x 79 cm
Collection of Gracie Smart, London
Courtesy Malborough Fine Art, London
© Paula Rego

 

Paula Rego. 'Mother Wears the Wolf's Pelt' 2003

 

Paula Rego
Mother Wears the Wolf’s Pelt
2003
Pastel on paper
75 x 4 x 92cm
Collection of Gracie Smart, London
Courtesy Malborough Fine Art, London
© Paula Rego
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing Kylie Stillman’s Scape (2017) at left and Kiki Smith’s Born (2002) at right

 

Kylie Stillman. 'Scape' 2017

 

Kylie Stillman (born in Mordialloc, Victoria, Australia in 1975 lives and works in Melbourne Australia)
Scape
2017
Hand cut plywood
200 x 240 x 30 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Utopian Art, Sydney

 

 

Kiki Smith (born Nuremberg, Germany 1954; lives and works in USA)
Born
2002
Lithograph in 12 colours
172.72 cm x 142.24 cm
Edition 28
Published by Universal Limited Art Editions
© Kiki Smith / Universal Limited Art Editions Courtesy of the Artist and PACE Gallery, NY

 

 

Kiki Smith‘s practice has been shaped by her enduring interest in the human condition and the natural world. She evocatively reworks representations and imagery found in religion, mythology and folklore. Exploring themes recurrent to her practice such as birth, death and regeneration, in Born (2002) Smith alludes to an idea that has fascinated her for many years, the relationship of animals, particularly wolves and human beings. This illustration of Red Riding Hood and her grandmother emerging from the wolf’s stomach, subverts the story line of this well-known fairy tale, depicting the couple rising from the body of he wolf rather than being consumed by him. The image is simultaneously savage and tender. Significantly the illustrations of the child and the grandmother are, in fact, both portraits of the artist, the depiction of the child’s face is derived from a drawing of Smith as a child. In this work, the two female figures are no longer victims and the wolf is no longer the aggressor. Instead there is a complicity between characters. Smith’s ongoing use of surprising narrative associations allows her to interrogate ideas around gender and identity, providing a disconcerting view of traditional fairy tale narratives. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing Kylie Stillman’s Scape (2017) at left, Kiki Smith’s Born (2002) middle and Polixeni Papapetrou’s work at right

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Encounter' 2003

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (born 1960, Melbourne Australia; lives and works in Melbourne Australia)
The Encounter
2003
Type C print
100 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney + Berlin and Jarvis Dooney Galerie, Berlin
Reproduced with permission

 

 

Polixeni Papapetrou has been fascinated with costume and disguise throughout her more than thirty years of photographic practice. In her Fairy Tales series (2004-14), she restages well-known stories in highly theatrical environments, combining recognisable motifs, such as the snowy-white owl in The Encounter (2006) and the brightly coloured candy house in her work The Witch’s House (2003). Papapetrou places her child actors in fantastical landscapes, capturing them performing in front of vividly painted trompe l’oeil backdrops; that evocatively suggest the rich interior world of the child’s imagination.

In her work, Papapetrou also explores the narrative of the lost child, which in the European tradition has a parallel in the tale ‘Hansel and Gretel’. In Australia, the most famous story of children lost in the bush is Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967), a tale embedded in our cultural imagination through both the novel and subsequent movie (1975). Set on St Valentine’s Day 1900, it is the story of three young girls on the cusp of womanhood disappearing without a trace. Papapetrou’s Hanging Rock 1900 #3 (2006), from the Haunted Country series (2006), captures the eerie quality of the Australian landscape and the hopelessness of the lost girls. (Wall text)

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'The Witch's House' 2003

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (born 1960, Melbourne Australia; lives and works in Melbourne Australia)
The Witch’s House
2003
Type C print
100 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney + Berlin and Jarvis Dooney Galerie, Berlin
Reproduced with permission

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'By the Yarra 1857 #1' 2006

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (born 1960, Melbourne Australia; lives and works in Melbourne Australia)
By the Yarra 1857 #1
2006
Pigment ink print
105 x 105 cm
Courtesy the artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney + Berlin and Jarvis Dooney Galerie, Berlin
Reproduced with permission

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'By the Yarra 1857 #2' 2006

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (born 1960, Melbourne Australia; lives and works in Melbourne Australia)
By the Yarra 1857 #2
2006
Pigment ink print
105 x 105 cm
Courtesy the artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney + Berlin and Jarvis Dooney Galerie, Berlin
Reproduced with permission

 

Polixeni Papapetrou. 'Lost' 2005

 

Polixeni Papapetrou (born 1960, Melbourne Australia; lives and works in Melbourne Australia)
Lost
2005
Type C print
100 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney + Berlin and Jarvis Dooney Galerie, Berlin
Reproduced with permission

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing Polixeni Papapetrou’s work at left and Kate Daw’s work at centre right

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing Kate Daw’s work Lights No Eyes Can See (2) (2017) at left; the work of Paula Rego middle; and Kylie Stillman’s Scape (2017) right

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing Kate Daw’s work Lights No Eyes Can See (2) (2017) at left, and her paintings Arietta’s House (2016), Lenci dolls (Lenu and Lila) (2016), and Lenci doll (back to the before) (2016) left to right

 

Kate Daw. 'Lights No Eyes Can See (2)' 2017

 

Kate Daw
Lights No Eyes Can See (2)
2017
Fired and painted clay dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Sarah Scout Presents, Melbourne

 

 

Kate Daw‘s practice has been shaped by her ongoing interest in authorship, narrative and creative process. Daw’s new work for this exhibition Lights No Eyes Can See (2) (2017, above), is one of many iterations that the artist has made: its original lyric form was written as the song ‘Attics of my Life’, in 1970 by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter for the rock band The Grateful Dead. In its first iteration Daw reshapes the lyrics into a typed canvas work scaled up to a giant print and a performative iteration in which she asked art students to sing this song at set times of the day.

For this exhibition, Daw has transformed an exceprt of the song into a wall piece made in clay. The text describes the dreamy, subconscious space that fairy tales occupy, while the colour and form of the work suggests domestic decoration. Continuously moving between the domestic and the social, the everyday and the imagined, this work reflects Daw’s ongoing interest in how we constantly reshape and remake objects, texts and narratives to make sense of the world. (Wall text)

 

Kate Daw. 'Lenci dolls (Lenu and Lila)' 2016

 

Installation view of Kate Daw’s work Lenci dolls (Lenu and Lila) 2016
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne with a still from the video work Mound (2011) by Allison Schulnik at left,  and the work of Dina Goldstein from her Fallen Princess series at right

 

 

Allison Schulnik (born in 1978, San Diego; lives and works in Los Angeles, USA)
Mound
2011
Clay-animated stop motion video
4.24 minutes
Courtesy the artist and Mark Moore Gallery, California

 

Allison Schulnik (born in 1978, San Diego; lives and works in Los Angeles, USA) 'Mound' (video still) 2011

 

Allison Schulnik (born in 1978, San Diego; lives and works in Los Angeles, USA)
Mound (video still)
2011
Clay-animated stop motion video
4.24 minutes
Courtesy the artist and Mark Moore Gallery, California

 

Dina Goldstein. 'Cinder' 2007

 

Dina Goldstein (born 1969 in Tel Aviv, Israel; lives and works Vancouver, Canada)
Cinder
2007
From the Fallen Princess series
Digital photograph
76.2 x 106.7 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Dina Goldstein. 'Princess Pea' 2009

 

Dina Goldstein (born 1969 in Tel Aviv, Israel; lives and works Vancouver, Canada)
Princess Pea
2009
From the Fallen Princess series
Digital photograph
76.2 x 106.7 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Dina Goldstein. 'Snowy' 2007

 

Dina Goldstein (born 1969 in Tel Aviv, Israel; lives and works Vancouver, Canada)
Snowy
2008
From the Fallen Princess series
Digital photograph
76.2 x 106.7 cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Dina Goldstein at left, and the video Untitled (scream) by Janaina Tschäpe at right

 

Untitled (Scream) from Janaina Tschape Studio on Vimeo

 

Janaina Tschäpe (born in Munich, Germany, in 1973; lives and works in New York, USA)
Untitled (Scream) (extract)
2004
HD video, no sound
5.34 minutes
Courtesy the artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Vivienne Shark LeWitt (born Sale, Victoria, Australia in 1956; lives and works in Melbourne, Victoria) with The Bloody Chamber (1983) left and Charles Meryon the voyeur 1827-1868. La belle et la bête (1983) right

 

Vivienne Shark LeWitt. 'The Bloody Chamber' 1983

 

Installation view of Vivienne Shark LeWitt’s The Bloody Chamber 1983
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Shark LeWitt. 'Charles Meryon the voyeur 1827-1868. La belle et la bête' 1983

 

Installation view of Vivienne Shark LeWitt’s Charles Meryon the voyeur 1827-1868. La belle et la bête [The Beauty and the Beast] 1983
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Kara Walker centre and Peter Ellis right

 

Kara Walker (born in 1969, Stockton, California; lives and works in New York, USA) 'Burning African Village Play Set with Big House and Lynching' 2006

 

Kara Walker (born in 1969, Stockton, California; lives and works in New York, USA)
Burning African Village Play Set with Big House and Lynching
2006
Painted laser cut steel – 22 parts
Dimensions variable (61 x 97.2 x 228.6 cm)
Collection of Naomi Milgrom AO, Melbourne

 

 

Kara Walker is well known for her investigation of race, gender, sexuality, and violence through her elaborate silhouetted works. Since the early 1990s, Walker has been creating works that present disturbing and often taboo narratives using the disarming iconography of historical fiction.

Through the form of a child’s play set Walker reveals the brutal racism and inequality in American history. Burning African Village Play Set with Big House and Lynching (2006) uses simple cut-out silhouettes to create a series of characters and motifs that occupy a chilling, nightmarish world. Drawing from Civil War imagery of the American south, Walker creates parts for the play set – a plantation mansion, small huts, weeping willows, shackled slaves, Confederate soldiers and southern belles – then arranges these into a narrative. In the artists words, she questions how ‘real histories become fantasies and fairy tales’ and how it is, perversely, that ‘fairy tales sometimes pass for history, for truth’. In this work, Walker suggests histories can be played with – manipulated and parts removed – but also that storytelling can be adapted and reshaped to remember and reimagine the past. (Wall text)

 

Kara Walker (born in 1969, Stockton, California; lives and works in New York, USA) 'Burning African Village Play Set with Big House and Lynching' 2006 (detail)

 

Kara Walker (born in 1969, Stockton, California; lives and works in New York, USA)
Burning African Village Play Set with Big House and Lynching (detail)
2006
Painted laser cut steel – 22 parts
Dimensions variable (61 x 97.2 x 228.6 cm)
Collection of Naomi Milgrom AO, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Kara Walker left and Peter Ellis right

 

 

The prince and the bee mistress portfolio 1986

Melbourne based artist, Peter Ellis is a prolific image maker who creates hallucinatory scenes of make-believe animals and human-like creatures. His work takes its inspiration from diverse historical sources including children’s art and literature, detective novels, the legacies of Dada and Surrealism and the transformative qualities of fairy tales.

In this narrative etching The Prince and the Bee Mistress (1986), the artist illustrates a contemporary adult fairy tale by writer Tobsha Learner. It’s a surreal Gothic horror tale about the seduction of a young prince who succumbs to the disastrous ‘charms’ of the Bee Mistress. The Bee Mistress is capable of altering and morphing her body, which is comprised of a swarm of bees. Using his encyclopaedic knowledge of animals, objects and images, Ellis creates densely layered configurations of surprising and unsettling forms. This disturbing and perplexing imagery also references traditional fairy tales, with the puppet prince (plate 3) wearing the same costume as Heinrich Hoffmann’s little boy from the 1845 German children’s book Der Struwwelpeter (Shock Haired Peter). (Wall text)

 

Peter Ellis. 'The Princess Dream' 1986

 

Peter Ellis (born 1956 in Sydney, Australia, New South Wales; lives and works in Melbourne Australia)
The Princes Dream
1986
Etching, soft-ground, drypoint, sugar-lift, photo-etching, plate-tone and relief printing
35.2 × 50.6 cm (plate) 50.4 × 65.9 cm (sheet)
Courtesy of the artist

 

Peter Ellis. 'Dog Screaming' 1986

 

Peter Ellis (born 1956 in Sydney, Australia, New South Wales; lives and works in Melbourne Australia)
Dog Screaming
1986
Etching, soft-ground, drypoint, sugar-lift, photo-etching, plate-tone and relief printing
35.2 × 50.6 cm (plate) 50.4 × 65.9 cm (sheet)
Courtesy of the artist

 

Peter Ellis. 'Examining the Bee Sting' 1986

 

Peter Ellis (born 1956 in Sydney, Australia, New South Wales; lives and works in Melbourne Australia)
Examining the Bee Sting
1986
Etching, soft-ground, drypoint, sugar-lift, photo-etching, plate-tone and relief printing
35.2 × 50.6 cm (plate) 50.4 × 65.9 cm (sheet)
Courtesy of the artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Peter Ellis left and Mirando Haz (Amedeo Pieragostini) right

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Mirando Haz (Amedeo Pieragostini), left to right The Little Mermaid (La Sirenetta), The Needle (L’Ago), The Emperor’s New Clothes (Gli Abiti Nuovi Dell’Imperatore), The Old Street Lamp (Il Vecchio Fanale), The Old House (La Vecchia Casa) all 1977

 

Mirando Haz (Amedeo Pieragostini) 'The Needle (L'Ago)' 1977

 

Installation view of Mirando Haz’s (Amedeo Pieragostini) work The Needle (L’Ago) 1977
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Mirando Haz. 'The Little Mermaid' 1977

 

Mirando Haz (Amedeo Pieragostini) (born 1937, in Bergamo, Italy; lives and works in Bergamo, Italy)
The Little Mermaid (La Sirenetta)
1977
Etching Plate
15.5 x 11.5; sheet 19.0 x 15.3
The University of Melbourne Art Collection
Gift of the Italian Cultural Institute 1985
Courtesy of the artist

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing the work of Zilverster (Sharon Goodwin born in Dandenong, Australia in 1973 and Irene Hanenbergh born in Erica, The Netherlands in 1966 formed the collaborative art practice Zilverster in 2010. They live and work in Melbourne, Australia) including The Table of Moresnet (2016) at centre

 

Third floor

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing Tracey Moffat’s Invocations series (2000) (13 framed photo silkscreen works, dimensions variable, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia Collection)

 

 

Tracey Moffat‘s practice deals with the human condition in all its complexities, drawing on the history of cinema, art, photographs as well as popular culture and her own childhood memories to create works that explore themes around power, identity, passion, resistance and survival.

In her Invocations series, Moffatt explores a bizarre fairy tale world, inhabited by witches and spirits, a lost girl in a forest, and a man and woman in the desert battling their nightmares. It is a journey through landscape and scenes found in a rich array of different sources, from early Disney animations, Hitchcock movies such as The Birds, Goya paintings and the disturbing folkloric tales of the Brothers Grimm.

Using her skills as a filmmaker, Moffatt spent a year constructing the sets an directing actors to create each dramatic scene. She then worked with a printer for another year building the richly textured surfaces that give a powerful sense of illusion and otherworldliness to these works. Drawing on archetypal anxieties and fears, the lost child, the teenager yearning for escape and adult passions Moffatt’s Invocations series reveals the struggle for survival and the quest for power in a harsh and threatening environment. (Wall text)

 

Tracey Moffatt. 'Invocations # 5' 2000

 

Tracey Moffatt
Invocations #5
2000
Photo silkscreen
156 x 131.5 cm (framed)
Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by the artist, 2013
Courtesy of the artist and and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

Tracey Moffatt. 'Invocations # 7' 2000

 

Tracey Moffatt
Invocations #7
2000
Photo silkscreen
156 x 131.5 cm (framed)
Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by the artist, 2013
Courtesy of the artist and and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

Tracey Moffatt. 'Invocations #11' 2000

 

Tracey Moffatt
Invocations #11
2000
Photo silkscreen
119 x 105 cm (framed)
Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by the artist, 2013
Courtesy of the artist and and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing a still from Allison Schulnik’s video Eager (2013-2014) at left, and Patricia Piccinini’s Still Life with Stem Cells (2002) at right

 

 

Allison Schulnik
Eager
2013-2014
Clay-animated stop motion video
8.25 minutes
Courtesy the artist and Mark Moore Gallery, California

 

Allison Schulnik. 'Eager' (video still) 2013-2014

 

Allison Schulnik
Eager (video still)
2013-2014
Clay-animated stop motion video
8.25 minutes
Courtesy the artist and Mark Moore Gallery, California

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed' at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition All the better to see you with: Fairy tales transformed at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne showing at left, Patricia Piccinini’s Still Life with Stem Cells (2002, silicone, polyurethane, human hair, clothing, carpet dimensions variable Monash University Collection), and at right a still from her DVD The Gathering (2007)

 

 

These two works by Patricia Piccinini focus on one of the artists enduring interests, that of children and their ambiguous relationship with the imaginary creates that populate her work.

The child is the central character of most fairy tales, often at the point of transition to adulthood. Many of the tales reflect adult anxieties around this stage of childhood. But children, as both readers and central characters, often welcome fairy tales, as the stories nurture their desire for change and independence, and provide hope in a world that can be harsh and brutal. Children are also more willing to take on the strange and the magical, which we see in Piccinini’s sculptural work Still Life with Stem Cells (2002) in which a young girl is seated on the floor playing with her toys. These are not toys we are familiar with however, they are stem cells scaled up from their microscopic size, and each is different, as stem cell have the unique ability to change into other types of cells. The child is relaxed and happy, willing to take on this unfamiliar new environment. Piccinini re-enchants the world of the child, presenting an alternative narrative of the world we know. Creating possibility and wonder, she uses the fairy tale narrative to suggest new ways to look at issues facing contemporary culture.

In Piccinini’s video work The Gathering (2009) a young girl is lying on the floor of a dark house, asleep or unconscious. We watch with trepidation as furry blobs crawl towards her. Piccinini often depicts children in her work to evoke a sense of vulnerability and innocence, but it is often ambiguous as to who is more vulnerable, the creatures or the child. She confronts us with the strange and sometimes monstrous, just as fairy tales do. (Wall text)

 

Patricia Piccinini. 'Still Life with Stem Cells' 2002

 


Patricia Piccinini
(born in Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1965; lives and works in Melbourne, Australia)
Still Life with Stem Cells (photo detail)
2002
Silicone, polyurethane, human hair, clothing, carpet dimensions variable
Monash University Collection Purchased 2002
Courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco

 

The Gathering by Patricia Piccinini from MMAFT on Vimeo

 

Patricia Piccinini (born in Freetown, Sierra Leone in 1965; lives and works in Melbourne, Australia)
The Gathering
2009
DVD, 16:9 PAL, stereo
3.30 mins
Courtesy the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco

 

Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn. 'The Path' (screen capture) 2009

 

Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn (game designers and co-directors of tale of tales) Auriea Harvey was born in Indianapolis, USA in 1971 and Michaël Samyn was born in 1968 in Poperinge, Belgium; they live and work in Ghent, Belgium
The Path (screen capture)
2009
Computer game developed by TALE OF TALES
Music by Jarboe and Kris Force
Courtesy of tale of tales, Belgium

 

 

The Ian Potter Museum of Art
The University of Melbourne,
Swanston Street (between Elgin and Faraday Streets)
Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria
Tel: +61 3 8344 5148

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm

The Ian Potter Museum of Art 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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