Posts Tagged ‘Carbon print

04
Apr
20

Exhibition: ‘A Lasting Memento: John Thomson’s Photographs Along the River Min’ at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), Salem MA

Exhibition dates: 1st June 2019 – 17th May 2020

Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) has closed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

#MuseumFromHome

 

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'The Island Pagoda' 1873

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
The Island Pagoda
1873
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum. Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

 

Greetings from Australia.

Since we can’t go travelling ourselves at the moment let us travel, virtually, through time – back to the 19th century – and space, to journey with Scottish-born travel photographer up the River Min to the Chinese city of Fuzhou (Foochow). Let us wonder at these European colonial photographs, reflections of pagoda, bucolic landscapes, Eastern temples, Western churches and dangerous rapids. Thomson “portrayed a halcyon land, with romanticised vistas that reference the ethereal atmosphere of Chinese paintings and the sweeping panoramas of European paintings.”

Let us luxuriate, then, in these stunning carbon prints – their rich colour, their stillness – as lasting mementos of a vanished land, as memory objects reanimated in our imagination, so that we can travel beyond our current confinement.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

As far as travel souvenirs go, few can beat John Thomson’s leather-bound photo album Foochow and the River Min. From 1870 to 1871, the Scottish-born photographer traveled 160 miles up the River Min to document the area in and around the city of Fuzhou (Foochow), an important centre of international trade and one of the most picturesque provinces in China. Thomson sold his book by advance subscription to the foreign residents of Fuzhou – tea planters, merchants, missionaries and government officials 0 who wanted a way to share their experiences with friends and family back home.

Fewer than 10 of the original 46 copies of this album survived, and the Peabody Essex Museum is privileged to own two of them. A Lasting Memento: John Thomson’s Photographs Along the River Min presents this rare collection of photographs for the first time at PEM. The exhibition also features 10 works by contemporary Chinese photographer Luo Dan.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'A Lasting Memento: John Thomson's Photographs Along the River Min' at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), Salem MA 

 

Installation view of the exhibition A Lasting Memento: John Thomson’s Photographs Along the River Min at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), Salem MA

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Foochow and the River Min' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Foochow and the River Min
1870-1871
Leather-bound photo album
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Pagoda Island' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Pagoda Island
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Yuen-Fu Rapid' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Yuen-Fu Rapid
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Yen Ping Rapid' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Yen Ping Rapid
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Rocks in the Rapids' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Rocks in the Rapids
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'A Reach of the Min' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
A Reach of the Min
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'A Rapid Boat' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
A Rapid Boat
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

 

Photographic Journeys Past and Present Show China in a New Light

The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) presents a voyage into 19th-century China through one of PEM’s photographic treasures, John Thomson’s rare album Foochow and the River Min. More than forty striking landscapes, city views, and portrait studies will be on view, captured by Thomson as he travelled in the Fujian province in Southeast China from 1870 to 1871. These prints are complemented by a selection of photographs by contemporary artist Luo Dan, who was inspired by Thomson to undertake his own journey in southwestern China in 2010. A Lasting Memento: John Thomson’s Photographs Along the River Min is on view at PEM from June 1, 2019 through May 17, 2020.

From 1870 to 1871, Scottish-born photographer John Thomson traveled 160 miles up the River Min to document the area in and around the city of Fuzhou (Foochow), one of the most picturesque regions in China. Thomson gathered eighty photographs from this voyage into an album titled Foochow and the River Min which was sold by advance subscription to the foreign residents of Fuzhou – tea planters, merchants, missionaries and government officials – who wanted a way to share their experiences with friends and family back home. Of the 46 copies originally published, fewer than 10 survive today and PEM is privileged to own two of them, both of which are featured in the exhibition.

“Many people have a conception of China as very industrialised and modern, even sterile, but these photographs complicate that notion and reveal the country’s incredible beauty and geographic diversity,” says Sarah Kennel, PEM’s Byrne Family Curator of Photography. “The roots of China’s rapid modernisation go back to the 19th-century and are part of a larger history of maritime culture, trade, and globalisation that are also entwined with PEM’s origin story. This exhibition affirms how photography can bring us back to another place in time and can change the way we see the world.”

Thomson was a renowned photographer, focusing on fine art, landscape, and architectural photos, and was often credited with being one of the first photographers to use pictures in conjunction with journalistic commentary. Foochow and the River Min is accompanied by introductory text, presenting a pictorial journey featuring the character of the growing city of Fuzhou, the beauty of the landscapes surrounding the River Min, as well as Thomson’s studies of the people he encountered there.

 

Documenting Eastern culture

Thomson is considered one of the first photographers to document East and South Asia. Born in Scotland, he learned photography while still in school, working as an apprentice to a maker of optical and scientific instruments. In 1862, he joined his older brother William, also a photographer and watchmaker, in Singapore, where they established a studio. Thomson spent the next several years photographing throughout Asia, including Cambodia, India, and Thailand. By 1866, he had joined the Royal Ethnological Society of London, was elected a Fellow member of the Royal Geographic Society, and styled himself as an expert on Eastern cultures. In 1868, he established a studio in Hong Kong, a burgeoning centre of photography and trade. For the next four years, Thomson traveled and photographed throughout China before returning in 1872 to Britain, where he remained until his death in 1921.

The exhibition follows Thomson’s journey up the River Min, from the city of Fuzhou to Nanping. “Thomson’s extraordinary gifts as a photographer are evident in his compositions, including his famous view of the floating island pagoda,” says Kennel. “You can look at these as merely beautiful pictures, but if you unlock them a little bit they tell the story of an important moment of economic trade, cultural exchange, and political tension.”

Among the works on view are an extraordinary series on the Yuen Fu monastery, tucked high up a steep, rocky ravine. A strain of wistful romanticism is present, particularly in landscape photographs that incorporate a solitary figure.

In order to make his negatives, Thomson used the wet-collodion process. This required him to set up a large camera on a tripod and prepare the photographic plate on the spot by dipping it into light-sensitive chemicals in a makeshift darkroom, putting it in a plate holder and making the exposure within five minutes. He experimented with these processes while traveling by boat or ascending very steep hills and traversing rough terrain with a coterie of Chinese employees who not only hauled his equipment but also sometimes carried Thomson himself. Missionary and business colleagues helped facilitate introductions and provide access to unique locations so that Thomson could make his landscapes and portraits. The albums were printed using the carbon process, which imbues them with a rich, purplish tonality.

 

Inspired by Thomson

Contemporary Chinese photographer Luo Dan’s work focuses on the impact of modernisation and globalisation in China. Inspired by Thomson’s example, Luo traveled to the remote Nu River Valley in southwestern China, where he lived with and photographed the Lisu and Nu Christian ethnic minority communities for nearly two years, using the same hand-made wet-collodion process that Thomson had employed some 150 years earlier. Luo was especially interested in what he perceived as the villagers’ connection to local cultural traditions. A Lasting Memento features 10 works by Luo that reflect on and reverberate with the spirit and enterprise of Thomson’s 19th-century project.

Press release from the Peabody Essex Museum website

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Foochow Church' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Foochow Church
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Foochow and the River Min (Yuen Fu monastery)' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Foochow and the River Min (Yuen Fu monastery)
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Right Shoulder of Cave' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Right Shoulder of Cave (view from the building above looking down to the left)
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'A Small Temple at Ku-Shan' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
A Small Temple at Ku-Shan
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Road to the Plantation' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Road to the Plantation
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

 

“In an eerie parallel to today, the late 1800’s represented an international inflection point, with rampant Western industrialisation spurring expansive global trade, cultural exchange and attendant political tension. The invention of photography in 1839 enabled our earliest photographs of faraway lands and exotic cultures, most often brought back by wealthy amateurs (many of those images are held in the rich archives of the PEM.) Not so with John Thomson, a renowned professional photographer who garnered capital through pre-paid subscriptions to his album “Foochow and the River Min.” Thomson photographed the project on a two-year journey, traveling 160 miles up the River Min, from the city of Fuzhou (Foochow) to Nanping, considered one of the most picturesque regions in China.

In this scenic southeast region of China, a new British tea trade was flourishing. Thomson’s album catered to the interests of foreign tea planters, merchants, missionaries and governmental officials. These ex-patriots clamoured to share with their European family and friends Thomson’s skilfully crafted documentary photographs of the Chinese land and people who shaped their new lives. Interestingly, Thomson did not photograph much industry or commerce. Rather, he portrayed a halcyon land, with romanticised vistas that reference the ethereal atmosphere of Chinese paintings and the sweeping panoramas of European paintings. …

Thomson’s carbon prints are technically awe-inspiring. Utilising the cumbersome wet-plate collodion method of creating negatives on large, delicate glass plates that must be exposed while still wet in a hefty view camera on a tripod, Thomson then created his photographic prints on paper with the tricky but stable carbon method in his studio. I imagine this undertaking bore similarities to Hannibal crossing the Alps and that Thomson must have been a robust and determined 33 year-old. Perhaps he was also a perfectionist, because Thomson’s prints from the 1870’s are impeccably pristine. Come see, it is uncanny.”

Elin Spring. “Images of China, Then & Now” on the What Will You Remember? website [Online] Cited 29/03/2020

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Part of Lower Bridge' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Part of Lower Bridge
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'A Military Mandarin' (detail) 1873

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
A Military Mandarin (detail)
1873
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives, 1972

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Hired Labourers' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Hired Labourers
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921) 'Mode of Dressing the Hair' 1870-1871

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Mode of Dressing the Hair
1870-1871
Carbon print
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives
© Peabody Essex Museum
Photography by Ken Sawyer

 

 

John Thomson

John Thomson (14 June 1837 – 29 September 1921) was a pioneering Scottish photographer, geographer, and traveller. He was one of the first photographers to travel to the Far East, documenting the people, landscapes and artefacts of eastern cultures. Upon returning home, his work among the street people of London cemented his reputation, and is regarded as a classic instance of social documentary which laid the foundations for photojournalism. He went on to become a portrait photographer of High Society in Mayfair, gaining the Royal Warrant in 1881. …

 

Travels in China

After a year in Britain, Thomson again felt the desire to return to the Far East. He returned to Singapore in July 1867, before moving to Saigon for three months and finally settling in Hong Kong in 1868. He established a studio in the Commercial Bank building, and spent the next four years photographing the people of China and recording the diversity of Chinese culture.

Thomson traveled extensively throughout China, from the southern trading ports of Hong Kong and Canton to the cities of Peking and Shanghai, to the Great Wall in the north, and deep into central China. From 1870 to 1871 he visited the Fukien region, travelling up the Min River by boat with the American Protestant missionary Reverend Justus Doolittle, and then visited Amoy and Swatow.

He went on to visit the island of Formosa (modern-day Taiwan) with the missionary Dr James Laidlaw Maxwell, landing first in Takao in early April 1871. The pair visited the capital, Taiwanfu (now Tainan), before travelling on to the aboriginal villages on the west plains of the island. After leaving Formosa, Thomson spent the next three months travelling 3,000 miles up the Yangtze River, reaching Hupeh and Szechuan.

Thomson’s travels in China were often perilous, as he visited remote, almost unpopulated regions far inland. Most of the people he encountered had never seen a Westerner or camera before. His expeditions were also especially challenging because he had to transport his bulky wooden camera, many large, fragile glass plates, and potentially explosive chemicals. He photographed in a wide variety of conditions and often had to improvise because chemicals were difficult to acquire. His subject matter varied enormously: from humble beggars and street people to Mandarins, Princes and senior government officials; from remote monasteries to Imperial Palaces; from simple rural villages to magnificent landscapes.

Thomson returned to England in 1872

See the full Wikipedia website entry

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968) 'Simple Song No. 4 (Yang Du Lei and Her Sister Yang Hua Lin, WaWa Village)' 2010

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968)
Simple Song No. 4 (Yang Du Lei and Her Sister Yang Hua Lin, WaWa Village)
2010
Inkjet print from collodion negatives
© Luo Dan, Courtesy of M97 Gallery

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968) 'Simple Song No. 7 (Jin Ma Wei, Lao Mu Deng Village)' 2010

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968)
Simple Song No. 7 (Jin Ma Wei, Lao Mu Deng Village)
2010
Inkjet print from collodion negatives
© Luo Dan, Courtesy of M97 Gallery

 

 

Luo Dan

Luo Dan was born in Chongqing, China, in 1968 and graduated from the Sichuan Fine Art Academy in 1992. He currently lives and works in Chengdu, China.

On another trip, Luo Dan found a remote village, in the Nu River valley in the western part of Yunnan Provence that still remained authentic to a simple agricultural life. This was a predominantly Christian village, the Lisu (a Chinese minority nationality), who were converted to Christianity by missionaries many years before. Luo Dan was attracted to their lifestyle and beliefs.

Luo Dan returned to photograph the villagers with a wooden box camera that he had found in Shandong. The camera was really a museum piece with a lens from 1900 that was slightly soft in its focus. Luo Dan decided to use a wet plate collodion process. This process was first used in the 1850s, using glass plates to make a negative. The process required the photographic material to be coated, sensitised, exposed and developed within the span of about fifteen minutes, necessitating a portable darkroom for use in the field. Luo Dan converted a minivan to a travelling darkroom.

Luo himself says,

“As photography grew ever more technologically complete, it drifted ever farther from its earliest starting point. External factors entered in, and its purity was gradually lost. …

The collodian process is from the earliest times of photography and although laborious, produces remarkable detail and a sense of timelessness that comes from the historic nature of the process. This area is very remote and has almost been forgotten by the modern world. In his photographs, titled “Simple Song”, Luo Dan wishes to show something of the human condition that goes beyond the preoccupations of modern China; materialism, urban development and economic growth. China’s economic achievements are remarkable but on other levels there are many gaps and voids in human experience due to this rapid development. Luo Dan’s work holds a mirror to show that there is an alternate view, one that may have a more spiritual value.

Luo Dan photographs his subjects with a very clear, steady gaze with an awareness of placement and composition. The collodion process makes very slow exposures and the subject must hold the position for up to a minute depending on the light. Often the images are slightly soft due to the movement of the subject or the surroundings. There is also a limited depth of field at times that selectively isolates the subject in front of the softer focus of the background.

His interest in this place and its people has some reference to anthropology in his scrutiny, however the photographs are so much more than an anthropological or ethnographic study by an outsider. The photographs document the lives of the Lisu people through their daily activities, their possessions and traditional costumes. The people are often posed in their Sunday best. They have a timelessness, a ‘difficult to place’ sense of being from the past but also the present and the future. The villagers could continue with this traditional lifestyle for many years to come. There is some concern however, that China’s demand for power will result in dams for hydropower, forever changing this region. Luo Dan stayed in the villages for about twelve months while making this series and he keeps returning.

The wet-plate process necessitates a very hands-on approach by the photographer. It reaches back to the basic fundamentals of photography; the effect of light on silver halide crystals that results in an image. Luo Dan’s photographs show the collodian process through the peeling and painterly edges of the prints, the marks and imperfections and the incredible detail of the collodion. The final works are the result of scanning the glass plates and printing the works to a larger scale on Ilford gold silk fibre paper. They are incredibly beautiful and capture a moment in time with great sensitivity. For some photographers who use this process it becomes all about the technique, however this is not the case. Luo Dan uses the wet-plate collodion technique as a way to return to a handcrafted skill of the past that mirrors the primitive tools and farming methods of the villagers. He is an alchemist in the way he creates ‘magic’ with his wooden box, glass and chemicals. The immediacy of the technique enables the villages to share this magic in the making of the glass plates. He is an authentic cultural observer.

In his words, “I travelled a long road, saw a lot of things, and in the end realised that all differences are actually similarities. And so I stopped, and looked in a single place for something unchanging, tried to figure out why this place had the power to stand still in time.”

Anonymous text from the China Photo Education website [Online] Cited 31/03/2020

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968) 'Simple Song No. 28 (Sha Yi Hai with His Crossbow, Shi Di Village)' 2010

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968)
Simple Song No. 28 (Sha Yi Hai with His Crossbow, Shi Di Village)
2010
Inkjet print from collodion negatives
© Luo Dan, Courtesy of M97 Gallery

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968) 'Simple Song No. 62 (Door)' 2012

 

Luo Dan (Chinese, b. 1968)
Simple Song No. 62 (Door)
2012
Inkjet print from collodion negatives
© Luo Dan, Courtesy of M97 Gallery

 

 

Peabody Essex Museum
East India Square
161 Essex Street
Salem, MA 01970-3783 USA
Phone: 978-745-9500, 866-745-1876

Opening hours:
Open Tuesday – Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
Closed Mondays

Peabody Essex Museum website

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07
Jun
19

Exhibition: ‘Oscar Rejlander: Artist Photographer’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 12th March – 9th June 2019

 

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

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Two Ways of Life (Hope in Repentance)
1857
Albumen silver print
21.8 x 40.8 cm (8 9/16 x 16 1/16 in.)
Moderna Museet, Stockholm

 

 

Oscar Rejlander, the father of photography, sets in motion many of the later developments of photographic art.

I could wax lyrical about the light, staging and humour of the images; the allegorical, religious and emotional portraits; the influence of photography on painting; the spontaneous act caught on film (Eh!); the combination printing, precursor to digital manipulation (Two Ways of Life); the costume dramas (The Comb Seller); or the presaging of the work of August Sander (The Juggler). But I won’t.

Instead, I just want you to think about the period in which these photographs were made – that Dickensian era of archetypal humanity, intricate narrative. I want you to feel that these reality pictures are alive and how they transcend the time of their creation through the lyricism of the print.

From the mind of the artist to works of art that stare down that cosmic time shift, from cradle to grave.

Marcus

.
Many thanks to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“It is the mind of the artist, and not the nature of his materials which makes his production a work of art.”

.
Oscar G. Rejlander

 

 

 

 

Oscar Gustav Rejlander is best known for his work “Two Ways of Life,” a masterpiece for which he used over 32 different negatives. It took him around six weeks to create it and over 3 days to produce a final print.

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Infant Photography Giving the Painter an Additional Brush' c. 1856

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Infant Photography Giving the Painter an Additional Brush
c. 1856
Albumen silver print
6 × 7.1 cm (2 3/8 × 2 13/16 in.)
Courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

After emigrating from Sweden to England in 1839 and taking up photography in 1852, he became one of the first to recognise photography’s potential as a “handmaid of art” – exemplified by early photographs like “The Infant Photography Giving the Painter an Additional Brush.” This tiny print served to demonstrate how photography could preserve an allegorical scene for a painter’s extended study. It also functioned as a self-portrait and hinted at Rejlander’s hidden ambitions: reflected in the convex mirror, he presents himself as a modern-day Jan van Eyck.

Extract from Dana Ostrander. “The Overlooked Legacy of Oscar Rejlander, Who Elevated Photography to an Art,” on the Hyperallergic website April 2, 2019 [Online] Cited 06/06/2019

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Non Angeli sed Angli (Not Angels but Anglos), after Raphael’s Sistine Madonna' c. 1854-1856

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Non Angeli sed Angli (Not Angels but Anglos), after Raphael’s Sistine Madonna
c. 1854-1856
Albumen silver print
20.5 x 26.3 cm (8 1/16 x 10 3/8 in.)
Princeton University Art Museum
Museum purchase, David H. McAlpin, Class of 1920, Fund

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Mary Constable and Her Brother' 1866

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Mary Constable and Her Brother
1866
Albumen silver print
16.8 x 22.1 cm (6 5/8 x 8 11/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Bachelor's Dream' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Bachelor’s Dream
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
13.9 x 19.6 cm (5 1/2 x 7 11/16 in.)
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Photo: Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Hard Times (The Out of Work Workman's Lament)' 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Hard Times (The Out of Work Workman’s Lament)
1860
Albumen silver print
13.8 x 19.7 cm (5 7/16 x 7 3/4 in.)
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Photo: Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Head of St. John the Baptist in a Charger' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Head of St. John the Baptist in a Charger
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
14.1 x 17.8 cm (5 9/16 x 7 in.)
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Photo: Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Study of Hands' 1856

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Study of Hands
1856
Albumen silver print
14.8 x 17.6 cm (5 13/16 x 6 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Purchased 2014

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'A "Set To"' 1855

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
A “Set To”
1855
In “Prince Albert’s Calotype Album,” vol. 2, about 1860
Salted paper print
15 x 21 cm (5 7/8 x 8 1/4 in.)
Royal Collection Trust
© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

 

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) was one of the 19th century’s greatest innovators in the medium of photography, counting Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Charles Darwin, Lewis Carroll and Julia Margaret Cameron among his devotees. Nevertheless, the extent of Rejlander’s work and career has often been overlooked. Oscar Rejlander: Artist Photographer, on view March 12 – June 9, 2019 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles, is the first exhibition to explore the prolific career of the artist who became known as “the father of art photography,” and whose bold experimentation with photographic techniques early in the medium’s development and keen understanding of human emotion were ahead of their time.

The exhibition features 150 photographs that demonstrate Rejlander’s remarkable range, from landscapes and portraits to allegories and witty commentaries on contemporary society, alongside a selection of his early paintings, drawings, and prints.

“Rejlander tells us in his writings that ‘It is the mind of the artist, and not the nature of his materials, which makes his production a work of art’,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “While technologies have dramatically changed, some of the fundamental issues that Rejlander grappled with in his photographs still resonate with photographic practice today. His photographs, though made a century and a half ago, are both meticulously of their time and timeless, foreshadowing many later achievements of the medium through to the digital age.”

Oscar G. Rejlander was born in Sweden and moved to England in 1839, working first as a painter before turning to photography in 1852. He made a living as a portrait photographer while experimenting with photographic techniques, most notably combination printing, in which parts of multiple negatives were exposed separately and then printed to form a single picture. Rejlander moved to London in 1862, where his business continued to grow and where his wife, Mary Bull, worked alongside him in his photography studios.

 

Portraits and Images of Everyday Life

Portraiture, particularly of members of the higher ranks of London society, was Rejlander’s main professional activity and supported his livelihood. Art critics and clients alike admired his skill with lighting as well as the natural and seemingly spontaneous expressions he was able to capture. Rejlander photographed some of the most important figures of the day, including the English scientist Charles Darwin, known for his theory of evolution, and poets Alfred Lord Tennyson and Henry Taylor. He also guided the first photographic efforts of the writer and mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (known as Lewis Carroll), the creator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as well as photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.

From the beginning of his career as a photographer, Rejlander was keenly interested in depicting the activities of ordinary people, particularly the middle and lower classes of society. It was through his staged domestic images that he illustrated familial relationships with tenderness and humour, often using models and props to re-create in his studio the scenes he had witnessed in the streets, from young boys who swept up dirt and debris in exchange for tips, to street vendors such as “flower girls” who offered bouquets for sale to passersby. Like a modern street photographer, Rejlander chose his compositions and subjects based on what he saw and heard, realising the final images in the studio.

In 1863 Rejlander constructed a unique iron, wood, and glass “tunnel studio,” where the sitter, positioned in the open, light-filled part of the studio, would look into the darker part of the room where the camera and operator were situated, nearly invisible. The pupils of the sitters’ eyes expanded, allowing for “more depth and expression,” as a writer observed in Photographic News. In addition to this technique, Rejlander often exploited his own unique ability to enact exaggerated emotions to assist his subjects. Charles Darwin illustrated many of Rejlander’s expressive photographs in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, published in 1872.

 

Combination Printing and Two Ways of Life

Rejlander holds an important place in the history of photography primarily because of the groundbreaking way he applied the technique of combination printing. On view in the exhibition is the most ambitious example of the artist’s pioneering experimentation, the epic photograph, Two Ways of Life, or Hope in Repentance (1857). It attracted immediate attention upon its exhibition both for its large size and the ambition of its production, which included the combination printing of over 30 separate wet collodion on glass negatives, a process that took more than three days.

The work represents an intricate allegory of two opposing philosophies of life: Vice and Virtue. In the centre of the picture, a wise man guides a younger man to the right, toward a life of virtue – work, study, and religion. To the left, a second young man is tempted by the call of desire, gambling, idleness, and vice. Prince Albert may have worked with Rejlander on the overall conception of the picture, and he and Queen Victoria purchased three versions for their art collection.

Despite this support from the Royal Family, Two Ways of Life divided the photographic community, with professional photographers considering it a technical tour de force, and amateurs seeing it as not only artificial in production but also immoral in its subject. However, it remains one of finest examples of combination printing to come from this period.

 

Art and Photography

Today, the debate about photography’s status as an art may be obsolete, but the arts community in 19th-century Britain was passionately divided over Rejlander’s chosen medium. Rejlander strongly advocated the view that photography was an independent art, while he was also convinced that a photograph could help artists by providing an effective substitute for working from live models. He was possibly the first to provide artists with visual references for their work in photographs, creating figure studies in a range of poses and costumes, including close-ups of hands, feet, drapery, and even fleeting facial expressions. Although many painters were reluctant to disclose their reliance on photography, several collected Rejlander’s photographs, including George Frederic Watts (English, 1817-1904) and Henri Fantin-Latour (French, 1836-1904).

Paintings also strongly influenced Rejlander’s choice of subjects, leading him not only to imitate the styles of artists but also to re-create the figures found in their compositions. He frequently photographed actors or models posing as a “Madonna,” a “Devotee,” a “Disciple,” or specific Christian figures such as John the Baptist. He may have intended these studies, as well as others showing figures in classical robes, for artists to consult as well.

“What we hope comes through in the exhibition is Rejlander’s humanity and humour, as well as his humble nature, particularly evident in the fact that he often sent his work to exhibitions under the name ‘amateur’,” says Karen Hellman, assistant curator of photographs at the Getty Museum. “His explanation: ‘When I compare what I have done with what I think I ought to do, and some day hope I shall do, I think of myself as only an amateur, after all – that is to say, a beginner’.”

Oscar Rejlander: Artist Photographer, is on view March 12 – June 9, 2019 at J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by Lori Pauli, curator of photographs at the National Gallery of Canada, and Karen Hellman, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Mr. Collett's Return' 1841

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Mr. Collett’s Return
1841
Black chalk, charcoal and white wash highlights on paper (backed)
92.8 × 74.4 cm
The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery, Lincoln)

 

Attributed to Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) '[Landscape]' c. 1855

 

Attributed to Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
[Landscape]
c. 1855
Salted paper print
22.3 × 19.7 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Purchased 2014.

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Sailor Boy' 1855, printed 1873

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Sailor Boy
1855, printed 1873
Carbon print
19 x 16 cm (7 1/2 x 6 5/16 in.)
Royal Collection Trust
© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Ariadne' 1857

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Ariadne
1857
Albumen print from a wet collodion negative
Paul Mellon Fund
Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

 

“I believe photography will make painters better artists and more careful draughtsmen. You may test their figures by photography. In Titian’s Venus and Adonis, Venus has her head turned in a manner that no female could turn it and at the same time shows so much of her back. Her right leg also is too long. I have proved the correctness of this opinion by photography with variously shaped female models.” ~ Oscar G. Rejlander 1863

“He was perhaps the first to market photographic nude studies to artists, and he even used them to test the anatomical accuracy of the Old Masters. His photograph “Ariadne” was created, in part, to expose the unnatural pose and elongated feminine proportions in Titian’s “Venus and Adonis.” Many of Rejlander’s contemporaries came to rely on these nude studies, and the exhibition contains at least three originally owned by the painter Henri Fantin-Latour.”

Extract from Dana Ostrander. “The Overlooked Legacy of Oscar Rejlander, Who Elevated Photography to an Art,” on the Hyperallergic website April 2, 2019 [Online] Cited 06/06/2019

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
17.8 × 12.4 cm (7 × 4 7/8 in.)
Courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Young Lady in a Costume' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Young Lady in a Costume
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
Courtesy National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Eh!' negative about 1854-1855; print about 1865

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Eh!
negative about 1854-1855; print about 1865
Albumen silver print
8.9 x 5.9 cm (3 1/2 x 2 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The First Negative' 1857

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The First Negative
1857
Albumen silver print
29 x 15 cm (11 7/16 x 5 7/8 in.)
Musée d’Orsay, Paris Photo
© RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY / Patrice Schmidt

 

In “The First Negative,” Rejlander restages Pliny’s account of the origins of painting, boldly suggesting that the act of tracing a shadow is more akin to creating a photographic negative than a painting.

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Participles, or Grammar for Little Boys: Catching' 1857

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Participles, or Grammar for Little Boys: Catching
1857
Albumen silver print
18.7 x 12.7 cm (7 3/8 x 5 in.)
Moderna Museet, Stockholm

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Participles, or Grammar for Little Boys: Caught' 1857

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Participles, or Grammar for Little Boys: Caught
1857
Albumen silver print
20.3 x 15.7 cm (8 x 6 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Mr. Coleman as Belphegor' c. 1857, printed later

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Mr. Coleman as Belphegor
c. 1857, printed later
Platinum print
18.2 x 14.4 cm (7 3/16 x 5 11/16 in.)
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund Image
© Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Please Give Us a Copper' c. 1866-1868

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Please Give Us a Copper
c. 1866-1868
Albumen silver print
17.9 x 12.6 cm (7 1/16 x 4 15/16 in.)
Princeton University Art Museum. Museum purchase

 

A copper is a brown coin of low value made of copper or bronze.

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Juggler' c. 1865, printed later

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Juggler
c. 1865, printed later
Platinum print
19.5 x 14.6 cm (7 11/16 x 5 3/4 in.)
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund Image
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Enchanted by a Parrot (Mary Rejlander?)' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Enchanted by a Parrot (Mary Rejlander?)
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
Image (approx.): 50 x 30 cm (19 11/16 x 11 13/16 in.)
William Talbott Hillman Collection
Photo: Hans P. Kraus, Jr., New York

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Cup that Cheers' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Cup that Cheers
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
19.9 x 15 cm (7 13/16 x 5 7/8 in.)
Princeton University Art Museum
Museum purchase, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Max Adler

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Knuckle Bones' 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Knuckle Bones
1860
Albumen silver print
15.4 x 12.5 cm (6 1/16 x 4 15/16 in.)
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Photo: Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Knucklebones

Knucklebones, also known as TaliFivestones, or Jacks, is a game of ancient origin, usually played with five small objects, or ten in the case of jacks. Originally the “knucklebones” (actually the astragalus, a bone in the ankle, or hock) were those of a sheep, which were thrown up and caught in various manners. Modern knucklebones consist of six points, or knobs, projecting from a common base, and are usually made of metal or plastic. The winner is the first player to successfully complete a prescribed series of throws, which, though similar, differ widely in detail. The simplest throw consists in either tossing up one stone, the jack, or bouncing a ball, and picking up one or more stones or knucklebones from the table while it is in the air. This continues until all five stones or knucklebones have been picked up. Another throw consists in tossing up first one stone, then two, then three and so on, and catching them on the back of the hand. Different throws have received distinctive names, such as “riding the elephant”, “peas in the pod”, “horses in the stable”, and “frogs in the well”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) '"Father Times" (Where's the Cat?)' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
“Father Times” (Where’s the Cat?)
c. 1860
Albumen paper print
16.5 x 14.2 cm (6 1/2 x 5 9/16 in.)
Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Night in Town (Poor Jo, Homeless)' before 1862; print after 1879

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Night in Town (Poor Jo, Homeless)
before 1862; print after 1879
Carbon print
20.3 x 15.7 cm (8 x 6 3/16 in.)
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Purchased 1993

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Grief (Hidden Her Face, Yet Visible Her Anguish)' 1864

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Grief (Hidden Her Face, Yet Visible Her Anguish)
1864
Albumen silver print
19.6 x 14 cm (7 11/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. Gift of John H. Rubel

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Comb Seller (Oscar and Mary Rejlander)' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Comb Seller (Oscar and Mary Rejlander)
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
20 x 14.9 cm (7 7/8 x 5 7/8 in.)
University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque. Gift of Eleanor and Van Deren Coke

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Lionel Tennyson' c. 1863

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Lionel Tennyson
c. 1863
Albumen print from a wet collodion negative
Image (oval): 18.3 x 14.3 cm (7 3/16 x 5 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Fund

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Mental Distress (Mother's Darling)' 1871

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Mental Distress (Mother’s Darling)
1871
Carbon print of a polychrome drawing from a photograph
54 x 43.2 cm (21 1/4 x 17 in.)
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund Image
© Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)' 1863

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
1863
Albumen silver print
8.9 x 5.9 cm (3 1/2 x 2 5/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Sam Salz Foundation Gift, 2005

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Allegorical Study (Sacred and Profane Love)' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Allegorical Study (Sacred and Profane Love)
c. 1860
Albumen paper print
12 x 17.5 cm (4 3/4 x 6 7/8 in.)
Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Bad Temper' Negative about 1865; print later

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Bad Temper
Negative about 1865; print later
Albumen paper print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund, Image
© Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Henry Taylor' 1863

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Henry Taylor
1863
Albumen silver print
20.2 x 15 cm (7 15/16 x 5 7/8 in.)
Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. William D. Paden

 

Sir Henry Taylor KCMG (18 October 1800 – 27 March 1886) was an English dramatist and poet, Colonial Office official, and man of letters.

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Self-Portrait with Parrot' c. 1865

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Self-Portrait with Parrot
c. 1865
In “Album of Photographs by Oscar G. Rejlander,” 1856-72
Albumen silver print
Closed: 37.4 x 27.6 x 0.3 cm (14 3/4 x 10 7/8 x 1/8 in.)
Sir Nicholas Mander Collection

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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01
Sep
17

Exhibition: ‘Written in Light – The First Photographers’ at Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Exhibition dates: 8th April – 3rd September 2017

Curator: Anna Tellgren

 

 

Nils Strindberg. '14/7 1897. The Eagle Balloon after landing' 1897/1930

 

Nils Strindberg
Örnen efter landningen. Ur serien Ingenjör Andrées luftfärd, 14/7 1897
14/7 1897. The Eagle Balloon after landing

From the series The Flight of the Eagle
1897/1930
Gelatin silver print

 

Nils Strindberg. '14/7 1897. After the crash' 1897/1930

 

Nils Strindberg
14/7 1897. After the crash

From the series The Flight of the Eagle
1897/1930
Gelatin silver print
Some rights reserved by Tekniska museet

 

Nils Strindberg. 'Setting up-camp, raising the Swedish flag' 1897/1930

 

Nils Strindberg
Setting up-camp, raising the Swedish flag

From the series The Flight of the Eagle
1897/1930
Gelatin silver print
Some rights reserved by Tekniska museet

 

Nils Strindberg. 'Moving a boat through the icy waters' 1897/1930

 

Nils Strindberg
Moving a boat through the icy waters

From the series The Flight of the Eagle
1897/1930
Gelatin silver print
Some rights reserved by Tekniska museet

 

 

Nils Strindberg (1872-1897)

In July 1897, Salomon August Andrée (1854-1897) embarked on his voyage to the North Pole in the balloon Örnen [The Eagle], accompanied by the engineer Knut Frænkel (1870-1897) and the photographer Nils Strindberg. A few days later, the balloon crashed on the ice, and they were forced to continue their journey on foot. The conditions were severe, and the expedition ended in disaster. After a few months, in October, they made up camp on Kvitøya on Svalbard. This is where their bodies were found thirty years later, along with Strindberg’s camera.
The expedition and the events surrounding it, were widely publicised both at the time of the expedition, and later when they were found. Per Olof Sundman’s book The Flight of the Eagle (1967) was turned into a film by Jan Troell in 1982. Although these photographs were taken as scientific observations, and to document the work of the members of the expedition, they now appear as some of the most remarkable and beautiful photographs in polar history.

John Hertzberg (1871-1935) was a photographer and docent at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology. He was commissioned to develop the exposed films, and managed successfully to process ninety-three of Strindberg’s photo­graphs. He made copies of the negatives, which were used to produce the prints on paper that are now at institutions including Moderna Museet, the National Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm and Grenna Museum – Polarcenter in Gränna.

The original negatives ended up at the Royal Swedish Acad­emy of Sciences in Stockholm. Hertzberg re-touched some of the pictures, and these are primarily the ones that have been published and embody the public perception of the expedition. Moderna Museet has both sets, and the re-touched photographs are shown above the un-retouched versions in this exhibition.

More fascinating insights into the Flight of the Eagle can be found on James McArdle’s excellent website.

 

Nils Strindberg. 'At camp' 1897/1930

 

Nils Strindberg
At camp
From the series The Flight of the Eagle
1897/1930
Gelatin silver print
Some rights reserved by Tekniska museet

 

Nils Strindberg. 'Camp on White Island' 1897/1930

 

Nils Strindberg
Camp on White Island
From the series The Flight of the Eagle
1897/1930
Gelatin silver print
Some rights reserved by Tekniska museet

 

 

While there are some outstanding photographs in this posting, the selection seems rather ad hoc. It is always good to see the work of Julia Margaret Cameron and other illuminati of late 19 century photography, but the highlight in this posting are the ethereal and tragic photographs from the Eagle polar expedition. We can only be grateful that so many negatives have survived, a testament to both the photographer, the developer and the coldness of the ice, leaving us with such transcendent images of human endurance.

Marcus

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

 

William Henry Fox Talbot. 'Four Shelves of Books' 1844

 

William Henry Fox Talbot
Four Shelves of Books
1844
Salted Paper Print

 

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877)

The Scientist William Henry Fox Talbot in Britain experimented with various silver salt solutions on paper. In the mid-1830s, he succeeded in producing a negative image on photosensitive paper in a camera and had thus ingeniously invented the negative.

In 1844-46, he published what could be regarded as the first photographically illustrated magazine, The Pencil of Nature, in which he described the technique and how photography could be used in practice. He himself claimed that its most important use was to produce evidence, but he also had artistic ambitions for his photographic images. It was Talbot who eventually launched the term “photography” (writing with light) for his invention. Many different words and metaphors were used to describe this new medium, but photography was soon established as its proper name.

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander. 'Lesson' 1860

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander
Lesson
1860
Albumen silver print

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg. 'The copper quay and the polishing works at Fiskars bruk, Finland' 1872

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg
The copper quay and the polishing works at Fiskars bruk, Finland
1872
Albumen silver print

 

Fiskars (Swedish, Finnish: Fiskari) is a village in the town of Raseborg (Raasepori) in western Uusimaa, Finland. The village is the site of the former Fiskars Bruk, which was founded in 1646 and gave rise to the company Fiskars.

 

 

The exhibition Written in Light – The First Photographers explores Moderna Museet’s collection of photography from the second half of the 19th century. It includes the Museum’s unique collection of daguerreotypes and works by a few of the world’s most famous photographers: Julia Margaret Cameron, Oscar Gustave Rejlander, and Carleton E. Watkins.

Since its invention, photography has developed, changed, and been used for many different aims and purposes. With the breakthrough of digital images, and their omnipresence in social media, photography is once again in a period of change. This gives all the more reason to look back and consider the impact of its legacy on contemporary photography. This exhibition highlights the Museum’s collection of daguerreotypes, but also gives examples of other early photographic techniques.

Thanks to two significant acquisitions in the mid-1960s, the Helmut Gernsheim Duplicate Collection, and the Helmer Bäckström Photographic Collection, some of the most internationally famous photographers in history are represented at Moderna Museet.

 

Before and Behind the Lens

Written in Light and Film Inside an Image are part of the photographic project Before and Behind the Lens, which consists of a series of exhibitions, discussions and guided tours. Before and Behind the Lens examines the role of photographic images in art and the transformation of the medium since the early experiments with new technology in the 19th century, to today’s explorations of the potential of the optical lens. Moderna Museet has one of Europe’s finest collections of photography, ranging from pioneers such as Julia Margaret Cameron to many of the most influential contemporary artists who visualise the world for us with the camera lens.

Press release from Moderna Museet

 

Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill. 'Misses Grierson' c. 1845

 

Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill
Misses Grierson
c. 1845
Salted paper print, calotype

 

 

Robert Adamson (1821-1848) and David Octavius Hill (1802-1870)

The first prominent calotype practitioners were active in Scotland, which was exempt from Talbot’s patent restrictions. David Octavius Hill was a portrait painter, and Robert Adamson an engineer. In 1843, they began collaborating as photographers, after Hill had been assigned to portray a group of clergymen and laymen who had left the Church of Scotland and founded the Free Church of Scotland. Hill wanted to use photographs to create individual portraits of the several hundred participants in this assembly.

It took them more than a year to produce a calotype of each member, and the painting took another 20 years for Hill to complete. They continued working together for four years, until Adamson’s premature death, producing nearly 3,000 photo­graphs of architecture, landscapes, but especially portraits, which they always signed together. They also documented working women and men in the fishing village of Newhaven near Edinburgh in a natural and personal style that was unusual for that period.

 

Salted Paper Print, Calotype

Silver in common salt on/in paper 1839 – c. 1870

A paper is first soaked in a saline solution and then brushed on one side with silver nitrate, forming light-sensitive silver chloride. After allowing the paper to dry in the dark, it is exposed in sunlight for hours, in contact with a negative, until the image appears (printing-out). Excess silver chloride is then subjected to fixation in a strong saline solution or in sodium thiosulphate and is rinsed away in water. Subsequent gold toning (after 1849) lent the picture a richer tonal range and greater permanence. After 1850 they were often waxed and/or sometimes coated with a layer of albumen. Salted paper prints have a matte finish, and the paper fibres of the support are clearly visible in magnification. When fixed in salt, the image tone is reddish brown; in sodium sulphate it is a yellowish orange. Permanence is relatively low, and when faded or discoloured the prints turn to a yellowish brown. This technique was the first used to reproduce an image on paper from a negative. Although the term calotype is sometimes used, a calotype is actually a salted paper negative.

 

Johan Wilhelm Bergström. 'Self-Portrait' c 1850

 

Johan Wilhelm Bergström
Self-Portrait
c 1850
Daguerreotype

 

 

In 1844 Bergström became a photographer, an occupation he would hold for about ten years. As a daguerreotypist he became diligently engaged, and took pictures of the great people of the day. He also took a series of topographic images, which today are of great value. During a visit to Uppsala in 1845, he captured what is today the oldest known photographic image of the city, as well as a stereoscope image.

 

Daguerreotype

Amalgam on silver-coated copper 1839 – c. 1865

A copper plate is coated with a thin layer of silver, buffed and treated with iodine vapour in a closed container, transforming the silver to light-sensitive silver iodide. After being exposed in the camera for 10-30 minutes, the image is developed in heated mercury vapour. Silver and mercury form a white amalgam and the image is a reverse, low contrast positive. The picture was initially fixed in a saline bath, later in a bath of sodium sulphite. A subsequent toning in gold solution strengthened the sharpness and stability of the image. To protect the image against chemical and physical damage, the plate was tightly sealed with mats and glass and often enclosed in a case. Daguerreotypes are detailed, neutral in tone, sometimes hand-tinted, and are easily distinguishable by their alternately negative and positive impressions, depending on the angle of the light in which they are viewed.

 

Marcus Selmer. 'Bride from Birkeland' 1855

 

Marcus Selmer
Bride from Birkeland
1855
Daguerreotype, hand coloured

 

Marcus Selmer. 'Bride from Birkeland' 1855 (detail)

 

Marcus Selmer
Bride from Birkeland (detail)
1855
Daguerreotype, hand coloured

 

 

It is not immediately clear what drew Marcus Selmer (1819-1900), a Danish portrait photographer, to spend most of his life working in Norway. He trained as a pharmacist in his native Denmark, and was working in a chemist owned by his uncle when he discovered daguerreotype photography. He experimented with this new technology in his spare time and began sending his pictures in to local exhibitions. In 1852, Selmer travelled to Norway, to visit some of his uncle’s family in the city of Bergen. He never returned.

He soon found work as a photographer in Bergen and, within a year, was able to establish his own studio. This became the first permanent photographic studio in Bergen, as few photographers who visited would stay all year round. Photographers often visited Bergen in the summer, hoping to capture the fjords and mountains that surround the area, but, as they needed good light for their work, the dark and cold weather had driven most of them away by the time winter rolled around. Selmer ingeniously built his studio almost entirely out of glass, allowing enough light into the space, which enabled him to continue working throughout the year.

Selmer’s work quickly became well-known throughout Norway. He sold many books of his photographs, and sold individual images to the press and the burgeoning tourist industry, before eventually being appointed the royal photographer in 1880. Although his career was varied, Selmer is primarily remembered today for his portraits of local people in national folk costume… These photographs depict the customs, traditions and culture of the Norwegian people, and reflect Selmer’s interest in his adopted home.

Anonymous. “Marcus Selmer’s Photographs of 19th-Century Norwegians,” on the The Public Domain Review website [Online] Cited 05/08/2017

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg. 'Maria Catharina Malmberg with Children' c. 1860

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg
Maria Catharina Malmberg with Children
c. 1860
Ambrotype

 

 

Ambrotype

Silver in collodion on glass
1854 – c. 1880

A glass plate, coated with silver halogens in collodion, is sensitised with silver nitrate and then exposed wet in the camera. After being developed in iron sulphate – occasionally with the addition of silver nitrate – and fixed in potassium cyanide and washed, the plate is allowed to dry. The picture is then lacquered or protected with a sheet of glass, and the back is coated with black lacquer, textile, or cardboard so that the picture – actually a thin negative – is seen as a positive. It is a direct positive which is often tastefully displayed with mats and under glass in cases. Ambrotypes have a neutral tone, but are sometimes hand-tinted. The surface is characterised by a typical “doubleness”, as high-keys can be seen in the negative on the glass surface and low-keys against the dark background lining.

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander. 'No title (Shoeless boy playing whistle)' c. 1860

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander
No title (Shoeless boy playing whistle)
c. 1860
Albumen silver print

 

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander (1813-1875)

One of few internationally famous Swedish photographers is Oscar Gustave Rejlander, but little is known of his early life in Sweden. He settled in Britain around 1840, where he worked as a photographer until he died. He had probably studied art and was interested in art history. His works show distinct influences from Italian renaissance, Span­ish baroque, Dutch 17th-century painting and the British Pre-Raphaelites.

In his studio, he would build and photograph a kind of “tableaux vivants”, or staged scenes. Perhaps the most famous of Rejlander’s works is The Two Ways of Life from 1857, a negative montage consisting of some 30 exposures combined into a composition. Rejlander’s oeuvre also includes a series of pictures of poor children and families. Towards the end of his life, Rejlander met Charles Darwin and was commissioned to illustrate his acclaimed book The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872).

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander. 'The Two Ways of Life' 1857

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander
The Two Ways of Life
1857
Albumen silver print

 

 

In 1857 Rejlander made his best-known allegorical work, The Two Ways of Life. This was a seamlessly montaged combination print made of thirty-two images in about six weeks. First exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857, the work shows two youths being offered guidance by a patriarch. Each youth looks toward a section of a stage-like tableaux vivant – one youth is shown the virtuous pleasures and the other the sinful pleasures. (Wikipedia)

 

Carleton E. Watkins. 'Down the Valley, Yosemite' 1861

 

Carleton E. Watkins
Down the Valley, Yosemite
1861
Albumen silver print

 

Carleton E. Watkins. 'Tutueamela, El Capitan, 3000ft, Yosemite' 1861

 

Carleton E. Watkins
Tutueamela, El Capitan, 3000ft, Yosemite
1861
Albumen silver print

 

 

Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916)

Voyages of discovery, nature and landscapes were popular motifs for the early photographers. The growing tourism increased demand for pictures from exotic places, making this a source of income for publishers of photographic literature. The Ameri­can West was one such region, and some of the photographers who began working there also documented the American Civil War. One of the most prominent of these was Carleton E. Watkins, who had travelled and photographed the Yosemite Valley on several occasions in the first half of the 1860s.

In his large-format photographs, so-called mammoth prints, he captured the massive mountain formations, dramatic waterfalls and gigantic trees. His heavy equipment was carried by some ten mules, and it is almost a miracle, considering the difficult conditions, that so many of his photographs survived.

A definite advancement in the process of creating negatives was made by the Brit Frederick Scott Archers (1813-1857), who discovered how to use glass sheets for the negative instead of paper. Collodion was used to bind the necessary silver salt to the glass, but it could only be exposed while wet, hence the term wet plate process. The glass negatives gave sharp details, and a large number of paper prints could be made from one negative.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The Mother of Salome' 1870

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Mother of Salome
1870
Albumen silver print

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The Angel at the Tomb' 1870

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Angel at the Tomb
1870
Albumen silver print

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)

In Victorian Britain, a small group of photographers were the very first to attempt to create and formulate art photography. Julia Margaret Cameron, who belonged to this group, left behind a fantastic collection of intimate portraits of her family and large circle of friends. She was an amateur photographer who was active mainly in the 1860s and 1870s.

Her staged pictures, inspired by myths, biblical stories and English literature, have a characteristically expressive soft focus. Cameron’s photographs are reminiscent of the Pre-Raphaelites and renaissance painting. The Moderna Museet collection of Julia Margaret Cameron includes portraits of Charles Darwin, Henry Taylor and Alfred Tennyson, along with staged tableaux of The Angel at the Grave and the melodramatic Maud from one of Tennyson’s most famous poems. Cameron’s last major photo­graphic project in the UK, before she and her family moved to Ceylon, present Sri Lanka, was to illustrate Tennyson’s work Idylls of the King (1874-75).

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Maud "There has Fallen a splendid Tear From the Passion Flower at the Gate"' 1875

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Maud “There has Fallen a splendid Tear From the Passion Flower at the Gate”
1875
Illustration to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King and Other Poems. Sitter is Mary Ann Hillier
Albumen silver print

 

 

Albumen Silver Print

Silver in albumen on paper 1850 – c. 1900

A paper is brushed with a solution of albumen (egg white) and table salt and is allowed to dry. It is then bathed in silver nitrate and again allowed to dry, this time in darkness. Albumen, salt and silver form an emulsion containing light-sensitive silver salts which are exposed in daylight in direct contact with a negative until the desired image appears (printing-out). Residual light-sensitive silver salts are then removed through fixation, and the picture is washed in water. After 1855, most albumen silver photographs were gold-toned, followed by additional fixation and rinsing. Commercially produced albumen silver paper became available in 1863. Albumen silver prints have a thin paper support and are therefore normally mounted. The surface is usually glossy, and the tone may vary from yellow/red/brown to a violet blue, depending on exposure time and toning. Prints commonly change in tone to yellow/yellow-green in high-keys due to deterioration of the albumen. In magnification characteristic cracks can be seen.

 

Rosalie Sjöman. 'Alma Sjöman' c. 1875

 

Rosalie Sjöman
Alma Sjöman
c. 1875
Albumen silver print, hand coloured

 

 

Rosalie Sjöman (1833-1919)

Rosalie Sjöman was one of many prominent women photographers. She opened a studio in 1864 on Drott-ninggatan 42 in Stockholm, after being widowed with three small children. The photographer Carl Jacob Malmberg had had his studio at this address previously, and there are some indications that Sjöman may have been working for him. Her business prospered, and towards the end of the 1870s Rosalie Sjöman had five female employees, and she seems to have chosen to hire women only. R. Sjöman & Comp. later opened studios on Regeringsgatan 6, and in Kalmar, Halmstad and Vaxholm.

Her oeuvre includes numerous carte-de-visite portraits and larger so-called cabinet cards, with a mixture of classic portraits, various staged scenes, people wear-ing local folk costumes, and mosaics. The expertly hand-tinted photographs are especially eye-catch­ing; several of them portray her daughter Alma Sjöman.

In the 1860s, photography progressed from being an exclusive novelty into a more widespread and popular medium. The popular carte-de-visite were introduced in France in the mid-1850s, but became extremely fashionable when Emperor Napoleon III had his portrait made in the new format (6 x 9 cm). This trend spread rapidly, and portrait studios opened in large cities and smaller towns. This cartomania lasted for a decade, and the market stabilised around the mid-1870s, when the photographic medium entered a calmer phase.

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg. 'No title' From the series 'Gymnastics' c. 1875

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg
No title
From the series Gymnastics
c. 1875
Albumen silver print

 

 

Carl Jacob Malmberg (1824-1895)

The collection Carl Jacob Malmberg left behind includes most photographic techniques and image types. He is also an example of a photographer’s career development after the first innovative period in the 1840s and up to the 1890s. Malmberg was born in Finland and first studied to be a goldsmith in St Petersburg, where he also learned photography.

He moved to Stockholm, where he opened a studio in 1859 on Drottninggatan 42, and later on Norrtullsgatan 2, and finally on Regeringsgatan 6. Around this period, when cartes-de-visite portraits came into fashion, Malmberg’s practice really took off. On a visit to Finland in 1872, he took a series of photographs at Fiskars iron mill, documenting all the workshops and buildings. A slightly odd portfolio in Malmberg’s collection consists of more than 100 pictures of gymnasts. He had been commissioned by Hjalmar Ling at the Gymnastiska Centralinsti­tutet in Stockholm to take these pictures to illustrate the book Förkortad Öfversikt af allmän Rörelselära (Short Summary of General Exercise Physiology, 1880).

 

David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson. 'William Etty' 1844/c. 1880

 

David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson
William Etty
1844/c. 1880
Carbon Print
Reproduction photo: Prallan Allsten/Moderna Museet

 

 

Carbon Print

Charcoal (and colour) pigments and potassium bichromate in gelatin on paper 1864 – c. 1930

An emulsion with pigment and potassium dichromate in gelatin on thin paper is exposed in contact with a negative in daylight. The gelatin is hardened in relation to the amount of light during the exposure. The soaked paper is then turned over and pressed against a new support, coated with insoluble gelatin. The original support comes off in a bath of warm water or may be pulled off, and leaves an image with hardened pigmented gelatin. Any unexposed gelatin can then be washed off. The picture is finally subjected to an alum bath to remove the residual light-sensitive dichromate and to further harden the remaining gelatin. The result is a reversed image. It can be corrected by first reversing the negative or by transferring the image to a new support (Autotype).

Bühler and Höchheimer: A direct process on fabricated papers which were sensitised in alcohol, exposed in contact with a negative and developed in water. Carbon prints have a clear relief character with raised and glossy low-key areas. The tone is usually deep brown or black, but may vary with the choice of pigment. In magnification the emulsion gives a “ragged” impression, especially in high-keys.

 

Carl Curman. 'Waldemarsudde 1888' 1888

 

Carl Curman
Waldemarsudde 1888
1888
Cyanotype

 

 

Carl Curman (1833-1913)

The physician Carl Curman had many interests, and studied both medicine and art as a young man. Eventually, he became a famous balneologist, and initiated the plan for public baths in Stockholm and eventually also the Sturebadet swimming baths.

He built a photographic studio at the Karolinska Institute in the early 1860s, and was a pioneer of medical photography, before being appointed a professor of plastic anatomy at the Royal Acad­emy of Fine Arts in 1869. His lectures have been documented, in pictures showing students gathered around Curman for dissections. These photographic studies of the human anatomy were also used in the emerging field of eugenics – a troubling part of Western history.

Curman was never a professional photographer, but is one of the many practitioners who have made their mark on the history of pho­tography. His more private projects include pictures from Lysekil, where he worked as a balneologist, from Stockholm where he lived, and from various travels abroad, together with his wife Calla Curman, co-founder of the women’s society Nya Idun.

 

 

Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Moderna Museet is ten minutes away from Kungsträdgården, and twenty minutes from T-Centralen or Gamla Stan. Walk past Grand Hotel and Nationalmuseum on Blasieholmen, opposite the Royal Palace. After crossing the bridge to Skeppsholmen, continue up the hill. The entrance to Moderna Museet and Arkitekturmuseet is on the left-hand side.

Opening hours:
Tuesday 10-20
Wednesday-Sunday 10-18
Monday closed

Moderna Museet website

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24
May
11

Exhibition: ‘A Ballad of Love and Death: Pre-Raphaelite Photography in Great Britain, 1848-1875’ at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Exhibition dates: 8th March – 29th May 2011

 

Julia Margaret Cameron – you are one of my heroes!

.
Many thankx to the Musée d’Orsay for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Henry White. 'Ferns and brambles' 1856

 

Henry White (British, 1819-1903)
Fougères et ronces (Ferns and brambles)
1856
Albumen print
19.1 x 24.1 cm
Collection particulière
© Droits réservés

 

John Ruskin. 'Fribourg' 1859

 

John Ruskin (English, 1819-1900)
Fribourg
1859
Pencil, ink, watercolour and gouache on paper
22.5 x 28.7 cm
London, The British Museum
© The Trustees of The British Museum. All rights reserved

 

Frederick Crawley, under the direction of John Ruskin. 'Fribourg, Switzerland, Palm Street and Berne Bridge' about 1854 or 1856

 

Frederick Crawley, under the direction of John Ruskin
Fribourg, Suisse, Rue de la Palme et Pont de Berne (Fribourg, Switzerland, Palm Street and Berne Bridge)
about 1854 or 1856
Daguerréotype
11.5 x 15.1 cm
Angleterre, Courtesy K. and J. Jacobson
© Droits réservés

 

Roger Fenton. 'Bolton Abbey' 1854

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Bolton Abbey, West window
1854
Albumen print
25.1 x 34.5 cm
Bradford, National Media Museum
© National Media Museum, Bradford/Science & Society Picture Library

 

John William Inchbold. 'La Chapelle de Bolton Abbey' 1853

 

John William Inchbold (English, 1830-1888)
La Chapelle de Bolton Abbey (The Vault of Bolton Abbey)
1853
Oil on canvas
50 x 68.4 cm
Northampton, Museum and Art Gallery
© Northampton, Museum and Art Gallery

 

Henry Peach Robinson. 'Fading Away' 1858

 

Henry Peach Robinson (English, 1830-1901)
Fading Away
1858
Albumen print
28.8 x 52.1 cm
Bradford, The Royal Photographic Society Collection au National Media Museum.
© National Media Museum, Bradford/Science & Society Picture Library

 

Henry Peach Robinson. 'She Never Told her Love' 1857

 

Henry Peach Robinson (English, 1830-1901)
She Never Told her Love
1857
Albumen print
18.6 x 23.3 cm
Paris, musée d’Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay (dist. RMN)/Patrice Schmidt

 

 

Consumed by the passion of unrequited love, a young woman lies suspended in the dark space of her unrealised dreams in Henry Peach Robinson’s illustration of the Shakespearean verse “She never told her love,/ But let concealment, like a worm i’ the bud,/ Feed on her damask cheek” (Twelfth Night II,iv,111-13). Although this picture was exhibited by Robinson as a discrete work, it also served as a study for the central figure in his most famous photograph, Fading Away, of 1858.

Purportedly showing a young consumptive surrounded by family in her final moments, Fading Away was hotly debated for years. On the one hand, Robinson was criticised for the presumed indelicacy of having invaded the death chamber at the most private of moments. On the other, those who recognised the scene as having been staged and who understood that Robinson had created the picture through combination printing (a technique that utilised several negatives to create a single printed image) accused him of dishonestly using a medium whose chief virtue was its truthfulness.

While addressing the moral and literary themes that Robinson believed crucial if photography were to aspire to high art, this picture makes only restrained use of the cloying sentimentality and showy technical artifice that often characterise this artist’s major exhibition pictures. Perhaps intended to facilitate the process of combination printing, the unnaturally black background serves also to envelop the figure in palpable melancholia.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Arts website [Online] Cited 27/01/2020

 

Frederick Pickersgill. 'Sunshine and Shade' 1859

 

Frederick Pickersgill (English, 1820-1900)
Sunshine and Shade
1859
Albumen print
16.4 x 19.4 cm
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the National Media Museum.
© National Media Museum, Bradford/Science & Society Picture Library

 

 

The historian and art critic, John Ruskin, had a great influence in Great Britain not only on the Pre-Raphaelite movement created in 1848, but on the development of early photography in the 1850s. The leading Pre-Raphaelite painters, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Holman Hunt and Ford Madox Brown and their followers, wished to change the pictorial conventions laid down by the Royal Academy, and in order to demonstrate the transformations in modern life, invented a radically new idiom marked by bright colours and clarity of detail.

Pre-Raphaelite painters and photographers frequently made similar choices of subjects, and the photographers, particularly Julia Margaret Cameron, David Wilkie Wynfield and Lewis Carroll, were often had close links with the painters.

When painting landscapes, the Pre-Raphaelite artists answered Ruskin’s call, meticulously observing nature in order to capture every nuance of detail. For their part, photographers, such as Roger Fenton, Henry White, William J. Stillman and Colonel Henry Stuart Wortley, experimented with the new process of wet plate collodion negatives that allowed much greater image detail, and achieved similar effects. Although highly impressed at first by the daguerreotype, which enabled the eye to see tiny, overlooked details, Ruskin was nonetheless still very critical of landscape photography, which could not reproduce the colours of nature and in particular of the sky. This failing also gave rise to a major debate amongst photography critics.

In portraiture, there were clear links between the painted portraits of Watts and Cameron’s photographic portraits. By using special lenses and photographing her models in close-up, Cameron, achieved, with a glass negative, exactly the opposite effect to the clear image advocated by Ruskin, and her work was distinctive for the breadth of relief and contour, as well as the compositions evoking Raphael’s paintings, also a source of inspiration for Watts.

The painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti repeatedly drew and painted Jane Morris, a model with whom he was infatuated, and he asked Robert Parsons to produce a series of photographs, under his personal direction, which captured the fascinating presence of the young woman as effectively as his own paintings.

Just like the Pre-Raphaelite painters, Victorian photographers would turn to religious or historical subjects, finding a shared inspiration in the poems of Dante, Shakespeare and possibly Byron, and above all in the Arthurian legend made popular once more by Lord Tennyson, the poet laureat. From a formal point of view, Millais’ Ophelia, one of his most successful paintings, was a source for Henry Peach Robinson’s photograph, The Lady of Shalott, even though it had a different theme.

Finally, Pre-Raphaelite painters and Victorian photographers both liked to present scenes from modern life with a moralising undertone: hence She Never Told Her Love, a photograph by Robinson that was very successful when exhibited at the Crystal Palace in 1858, William Holman Hunt’s painting, Awakening of Conscience, and Rossetti’s Found, a painting depicting a countryman who comes across his former sweetheart, now a prostitute in the city.

In the 1880s, Pre-Raphaelite painting would be transformed, with artists and writers like William Morris, Burne-Jones, Whistler and Oscar Wilde, into a very different movement concerned only with the cult of beauty and rejecting Ruskin’s concept of art as something moral or useful. British photographers, however, inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites would inspire the Pictorialist movement that flourished in the 1890s, encouraged by the writings of Henry Peach Robinson and Peter Henry Emerson, extolling artistic photography.

Press release from the Musée d’Orsay website

 

James Sinclair 14th Earl of Caithness. 'Weston Avenue, Warwickshire' c. 1860

 

James Sinclair 14th Earl of Caithness (Scottish, 1821-1881)
Avenue à Weston, Warwickshire (Weston Avenue, Warwickshire)
c. 1860
Albumen print
23 x 18.3 cm
New York, Courtesy George Eastman House Rochester
© Courtesy of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The sunflower' 1866-1870

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879)
Le tournesol (The sunflower)
1866-1870
Albumen print
35.2 x 24.3 cm
Washington, National Gallery of Art, Fond Paul Mellon
© National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

John Robert Parsons, under the direction of Rossetti. 'Jane Morris posing in the house of Rossetti' summer 1865

 

John Robert Parsons (Irish, 1826-1909), under the direction of Rossetti
Jane Morris posant dans la maison de Rossetti (Jane Morris posing in the house of Rossetti)
Summer 1865
Modern print
22.6 x 17.5 cm
London, Victoria and Albert Museum
© V&A Images / Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

John Robert Parsons. 'Jane Morris posing in the garden of the house of Rossetti' summer 1865

 

John Robert Parsons (Irish, 1826-1909)
Jane Morris posant dans le jardin de la maison de Rossetti (Jane Morris posing in the garden of the house of Rossetti)
Summer 1865
Albumen print
Private collection
© Tim Hurst Photography

 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti. 'Jane Morris, the blue silk dress' 1868

 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (English, 1828-1882)
Jane Morris, the blue silk dress
1868
Oil on canvas
110.5 x 90.2 cm
Londres, The Society of Antiquaries
© Kelmscott Manor Collection, by Permission of the Society of Antiquaries of London

 

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Caroll). 'Amy Hughes' 1863

 

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Caroll) (English, 1832-1898)
Amy Hughes
1863
Austin, The University of Texas, Harry Ransom Center, Gernsheim Collection
© Droits réservés

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Maud' 1875

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879)
Maud
1875
Charcoal print
30 x 25 cm
Paris, musée d’Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay (dist. RMN)/Patrice Schmidt

 

Sir John Everett Millais. 'A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew's Day Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge' 1851-1852

 

Sir John Everett Millais (British, 1829-1896)
A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew’s Day Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge
1851-1852
Oil on canvas
91.4 x 62.2 cm
Collection Makins
© The Makins Collection/The Bridgeman Art Library

 

Sir Edward Burne-Jones. 'Princess Sabra (The King's Daughter)' 1865-1866

 

Sir Edward Burne-Jones (British, 1833-1898)
Princess Sabra (The King’s Daughter)
1865-1866
Oil on canvas
105 x 61 cm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay (dist. RMN)/Patrice Schmidt

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'And Enid Sang' 1874

 

Julia Margaret Cameron  (British, 1815-1879)
And Enid Sang
1874
Print on albumen paper, collodion glass negative, laminated on cardboard
35 x 28 cm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay (dist. RMN)

 

 

Musée d’Orsay
62, rue de Lille
75343 Paris Cedex 07
France

Opening hours:
9.30 am – 6 pm
9.30 am – 9.45 pm on Thursdays
Closed on Mondays

Musée d’Orsay website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Padlocks/People’ 1994-96

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