Posts Tagged ‘Charles Darwin

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

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21
Jan
16

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Marcus

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

 

 

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

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Julia Margaret Cameron to Henry Cole, 21 February 1866

 

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

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Julia Margaret Cameron to Sir John Herschel, 31 December 1864

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Annie' January 1864

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Paul and Virginia' 1864

 

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Peace' 1864

 

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Circe' 1865

 

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Hosanna' 1865

 

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Hosanna' 1865

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press release from the V&A website

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Whisper of the Muse' 1865

 

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Sappho' 1865

 

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'William Michael Rossetti' 1865

 

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'May Day' 1866

 

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Julia Jackson' 1867

 

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Henry Cole' c. 1868

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

Opening hours:
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Friday 10.00 – 21.30

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24
Oct
15

Text / Exhibition: ‘Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Sydney Part 2

Exhibition dates: 14th August – 25th October 2015

Curator: Dr Marta Weiss

 

 

The road less travelled

It was a flying visit to Sydney to see the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The trip was so very worthwhile, for I had never seen JMC’s large contact photographs “in the flesh” before, let alone over 100 vintage prints from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection. They did not disappoint. This exhibition is one of the photographic highlights of the year.

When you think about it, here is one the world’s top ten photographers of all time – a woman, taking photographs within the first twenty five years of the birth of commercial photography, using rudimentary technology and chemicals – whose photographs are still up there with the greatest ever taken. Still recognisable as her own and no one else’s after all these years. That is a staggering achievement – and tells you something about the talent, tenacity and perspicacity of the women… that she possessed and illuminated such a penetrating discernment – a clarity of vision and intellect which provides a deep understanding and insight into the human condition.

Annie; ‘My first success’ (1864, below) points the way to the later development of her mature style. Although not entirely successful, the signature low depth of field and wonderful use of light are already present in this image. Compare this to Lady Adelaide Talbot (1865, below), only a year later, and you can see that her development as an artist is phenomenal. JMC pushes and pulls the face of the sitter within the image plane. In a sequence from the exhibition (enlarge the installation image, below) we have (from left to right), female in profile facing right with light from right Sappho (1865); female lower 2/3rds right with light from front above Christabel (1866); female looking at camera, soft, dark moody lighting hitting only one the side of the face and embroidered cap Zoe / Maid of Athens (1866); now a different tilt of the jaw, lighter print Beatrice (1866, below); a frontal portrait with dark background, pin sharp face and hair to the front and back of the face out of focus Julia Jackson (1867, below), then female portraits facing left, the head filling the upper left corner; looking down in three-quarter profile with light from the right, filling the frame; and then upper right, small face, with the rest falling off into darkness.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (detail)

 

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 now before they are dead.

While it is very interesting to see her failures, or what she perceived as her failures – not so much a failure of vision but mainly a failure of technique: cracking of the plates, under development, defective unmounted impressions – presented in the exhibition, plus all her techniques for developing and amending the photograph – double printing, reverse printing, scratching onto the negative and painting on the print (all techniques later used by the Pictorialists) – it is the low depth of field, wonderful tones and the quality of the light that so impresses with her work. Her portraits have a real but very fluid and ethereal presence. Material, maternal, touch, sublime, religious, allegorical, mythological, and beautiful. She would focus her lens until she thought is was beautiful “instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist upon.”

She has, of course, been seen as a precursor to Pictorialism, but personally I do not get that feeling from her photographs, even though the artists are using many of the same techniques. Her work is based on the reality of seeing beauty, whereas the Pictorialists were trying to make photography into art by emulating the techniques of etching and painting. While the form of her images owes a lot to the history of classical sculpture and painting, to Romanticism and the Pre-Raphaelites, she thought her’s was already art of the highest order. She did not have to mask its content in order to imitate another medium. Others, such as the curator of the exhibition Marta Weiss, see her as a proto-modernist, precursor to the photographs of Stieglitz and Sander and I would agree. There is certainly a fundamental presence to JMC’s photographs, so that when you are looking at them, they tend to touch your soul, the eyes of some of the portraits burning right through you; while others, others have this ambiguity of meaning, of feeling, as if removed from the everyday life.

Unfortunately, her legacy and her baton has not been taken up in contemporary photography, other than through her love child Sally Mann. One of the main problems with contemporary portrait photography, perhaps any type of contemporary photography, is that anything goes. And what goes is usually linked to the photographer’s desire. It is not about the reality of the subject, but just a refraction of the desires of the photographer reflected in the subject. Many photographers today are not real photographers at all… they are just a pimp to their own ideas. There is a 100% co-relation between their vision and their work which leaves no room for ambiguity. There is no longer the interesting and lovely space between what is attempted and how the photographer would like it to be, as in JMC. Where the shortcomings are welcomed (she embraced flaws, cracks, thumb prints) and it all seems a marvellous activity. She was dedicated to the task of extracting the beauty of this ambiguity, through taking hours preparing plates, through sitting, developing and washing. She took her shortcomings and folded them back into her work so that there seems to be a type of perfection to it. Of course, there isn’t. These fulfilled her photographic vision, a rejection of ‘mere conventional topographic photography – map-making and skeleton rendering of feature and form’ in favour of a less precise but more emotionally penetrating form of portraiture. By contrast, the surface in contemporary “topographic” photography is just a paper thin reflection of the photographer themselves, nothing more.

The road to spirituality is the road less travelled. It is full of uncertainty and confusion, but only through exploring this enigma can we begin to approach some type of inner reality. Julia Margaret Cameron, in her experiments, in her dogged perseverance, was on a spiritual journey of self discovery. In Philip Roth’s Exit Ghost, he suggests Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs as the ideal music for a scene his character has written:

“Four Last Songs. For the profundity that is achieved not by complexity but by clarity and simplicity. For the purity of the sentiment about death and parting and loss. For the long melodic line spinning out and the female voice soaring and soaring. For the repose and composure and gracefulness and the intense beauty of the soaring. For the ways one is drawn into the tremendous arc of heartbreak. The composer drops all masks and, at the age of eighty-two, stands before you naked. And you dissolve.”

These words are an appropriate epithet for the effect of the photographs of Julia Margaret Cameron in this year 2015, the 200th anniversary of her birth.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Word count: 1,336

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

NB: it would have been great to see more of the later work as this exhibition mainly focuses on the period 1864-1869 (probably the bulk of what is in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection). Also, in the expansive, open galleries, some colour on the walls would have been good. When JMC exhibited her work it would have been on coloured walls, probably with multiple mounts of different colours as well. It would also have been nice to see some of the signatures on the work, as some of them reveal intimate facts about the sitter/theme.

 

 

When Cameron photographed her intellectual heroes such as Alfred Tennyson, Sir John Herschel and Henry Taylor, her aim was to record ‘the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man.’

‘When I have such men before my camera my whole soul has endeavoured to do its duty towards them in recording faithfully the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man. The photograph thus taken has been almost the embodiment of a prayer’.

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Julia Margaret Cameron 1867

 

‘When … coming to something which, to my eye, was very beautiful, I stopped there instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist upon’.

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Julia Margaret Cameron

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Mrs. Herbert Duckworth' 1872

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Mrs. Herbert Duckworth
1872
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron’s powerful portraits of her niece and goddaughter Julia Jackson depict her as herself, rather than a religious or literary character. Cameron generally reserved this approach for her male sitters. This is one of a series of portraits in which the dramatically illuminated Jackson fearlessly returns the camera’s gaze. Cameron’s niece, here given her married name, once again regards the camera directly, but with an air of sadness rather than confidence. Her husband had died after just three years of marriage. Cameron inscribed one version of this photograph ‘My own cherished Niece and God Child / Julia Duckworth / a widow at 24’.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Annie' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Annie; ‘My first success’
1864
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron was 48 when she received a camera as a gift from her daughter and son-in-law. It was accompanied by the words, ‘It may amuse you, Mother, to try to photograph during your solitude at Freshwater.’ Cameron had compiled albums and even printed photographs before, but her work as a photographer now began in earnest. Cameron made this portrait of Annie Philpot, the daughter of a local family, within a month of receiving her first camera. She inscribed some prints of it ‘My first success’ and later wrote of her excitement, ‘I was in a transport of delight. I ran all over the house to search for gifts for the child. I felt as if she entirely had made the picture.’

Cameron’s mentor and friend, the artist G.F. Watts wrote to Cameron, ‘Please do not send me valuable mounted copies … send me any … defective unmounted impressions, I shall be able to judge just as well & shall be just as much charmed with success & shall not feel that I am taking money from you.’ This is one of approximately 67 in the V&A’s collection that was recently discovered to have belonged to him. Many are unique, which suggests that Cameron was not fully satisfied with them. Some may seem ‘defective’ but others are enhanced by their flaws. All of them contribute to our understanding of Cameron’s working process and the photographs that did meet her standards.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Lady Adelaide Talbot' May 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Lady Adelaide Talbot
May 1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Julia Margaret Cameron, 28 & 31 July 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

In this close-up profile, Lady Talbot gazes out of the frame with determination. Instead of a tangle of branches and leaves, the background is neutral. The focus is soft and the light coming from the right traces the sitter’s profile. This photograph looks more distinctively like the work of Julia Margaret Cameron and shows the development of her signature style.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Il Penseroso; Come pensive nun devout and pure, Sober, stedfast and demure; Portrait or rather Study of Lady Adelaide Talbot' May 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Il Penseroso; Come pensive nun devout and pure, Sober, stedfast and demure; Portrait or rather Study of Lady Adelaide Talbot
May 1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Julia Margaret Cameron, 27 September 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Here Lady Adelaide Talbot appears not as herself, but as Melancholy, the personification of pensive sadness, that John Milton evoked in his poem Il Penseroso (about 1631). Draped in a shawl that hides her everyday clothing, her hands form a V on her chest, in a theatrical gesture. Cameron inscribed this print with two lines from the poem, ‘Come pensive Nun, devout and pure, / Sober, stedfast, and demure’.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron, 'Christiana Fraser-Tytler' c. 1864-1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Christiana Fraser-Tytler
c. 1864-1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Christiana Fraser-Tytler modelled for other Julia Margaret Cameron photographs together with her sisters. One of them, Mary, an artist and designer, later married the artist G.F. Watts. This print originally belonged to either Watts or his wife. It came from the Watts estate, which was sold after Mary’s death in 1938.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Sappho' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Sappho
1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Alan S. Cole, 19 April 1913
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

In late 1865 Julia Margaret Cameron began using a larger camera, which held a 15 x 12-inch glass negative. Early the next year she wrote to Henry Cole with great enthusiasm – but little modesty – about the new turn she had taken in her work. Cameron initiated a series of large-scale, close-up heads. These fulfilled her photographic vision, a rejection of ‘mere conventional topographic photography – map-making and skeleton rendering of feature and form’ in favour of a less precise but more emotionally penetrating form of portraiture.

This striking version of Sappho is in keeping with Cameron’s growing confidence as an artist. Mary Hillier’s classical features stand out clearly in profile while her dark hair merges with the background. The decorative blouse balances the simplicity of the upper half of the picture. Cameron was clearly pleased with the image since she printed multiple copies, despite having cracked the negative.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Christabel' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Christabel
1866
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Alan S. Cole, 19 April 1913
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

The title refers to a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge about a virtuous maiden who is put under a spell by an evil sorceress. Cameron wrote of photographs such as this, ‘when … coming to something which, to my eye, was very beautiful, I stopped there instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist upon’.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Beatrice' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Beatrice
1866
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Alan S. Cole, 19 April 1913
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Cameron based the pose, drapery, and sad expression of her model on a painting attributed to Guido Reni. The subject is the 16th-century Italian noblewoman Beatrice Cenci who was executed for arranging the murder of her abusive father. One review admired Cameron’s soft rendering of ‘the pensive sweetness of the expression of the original picture’ while another mocked her for claiming to have photographed a historical figure ‘from the life’.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Julia Jackson' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Julia Jackson
1867
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Cameron’s powerful portraits of her niece and goddaughter Julia Jackson depict her as herself, rather than a religious or literary character. Cameron generally reserved this approach for her male sitters. This is one of a series of portraits in which the dramatically illuminated Jackson fearlessly returns the camera’s gaze.

Cameron’s good friend Anne Thackeray Ritchie recalled in 1893, ‘Sitting to her was a serious affair, and not to be lightly entered upon. We came at her summons, we trembled (or we should have trembled had we dared to do so) when the round black eye of the camera was turned upon us, we felt the consequences, what a disastrous waste of time and money and effort, might ensue from any passing quiver of emotion.’

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Hosanna' 1865

 

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Portrait of Julia Margaret Cameron by her son' about 1870

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Portrait of Julia Margaret Cameron by her son
about 1870
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Vivien and Merlin from Illustrations to Tennyson's Idylls of the King' 1874

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Vivien and Merlin from Illustrations to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King
1874
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Vivien and Merlin from Illustrations to Tennyson's Idylls of the King' (detail) 1874

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Vivien and Merlin from Illustrations to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (detail)
1874
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Installation view of the exhibition 'Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London' at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

 

Installation views of the exhibition Julia Margaret Cameron: from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron’s career as a photographer began in 1863 when her daughter gave her a camera. Cameron began photographing everyone in sight. Because of the newness of photography as a practice, she was free to make her own rules and not be bound to convention. The kinds of images being made at the time did not interest Cameron. She was interested in capturing another kind of photographic truth. Not one dependent on accuracy of sharp detail, but one that depicted the emotional state of her sitter.

Cameron liked the soft focus portraits and the streak marks on her negatives, choosing to work with these irregularities, making them part of her pictures. Although at the time Cameron was seen as an unconventional and experimental photographer, her images have a solid place in the history of photography.

Most of Cameron’s photographs are portraits. She used members of her family as sitters and made photographs than concentrated on their faces. She was interested in conveying their natural beauty, often asking female sitters to let down their hair so as to show them in a way that they were not accustomed to presenting themselves. In addition to making stunning and evocative portraits both of male and female subjects, Cameron also staged tableaux and posed her sitters in situations that simulated allegorical paintings.

Text from the Victoria and Albert Museum website

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Lady Elcho / A Dantesque Vision' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Lady Elcho / A Dantesque Vision
1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron’s earliest photographic subjects were family and friends, many of whom were eminent literary figures. These early portraits reveal how she experimented with dramatic lighting and close-up compositions, features that would become her signature style. In May 1865 Cameron used her sister’s London home, Little Holland House, as her photographic headquarters. Her sister Sara Prinsep, together with her husband Thoby, had established a cultural salon there centred around the artist George Frederic Watts, who lived with them. Cameron photographed numerous members of their circle on the lawn. These included artists, writers and collectors and Henry Cole, the director of the South Kensington Museum.

Cameron clothed Lady Elcho in flowing draperies to suggest a character out of Dante, author of the 14th-century poem the Divine Comedy. Cameron wears the same large, paisley-edged shawl in the portrait by her son. The fragmented female figure at the far left of the frame may have been assisting Cameron.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Resting in Hope; La Madonna Riposata' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Resting in Hope; La Madonna Riposata
1864
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Purchased from Julia Margaret Cameron, 17 June 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Many of the photographs purchased by the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) from Julia Margaret Cameron were ‘Madonna Groups’ depicting the Virgin Mary and the infant Christ. Her housemaid Mary Hillier posed as the Virgin Mary so often she became known locally as ‘Mary Madonna’.  Like many of her contemporaries, Cameron was a devout Christian. As a mother of six, the motif of the Madonna and child held particular significance for her. In aspiring to make ‘High Art’, Cameron aimed to make photographs that could be uplifting and morally instructive.

As in many of Cameron’s depictions of the subject, the Madonna is holding a sleeping child. This had practical advantages as the infant was less likely to move during the long exposure. It was also suggestive of death, a grim reality for many Victorian families and a reference to the Pietà, a subject in Christian art in which the Virgin Mary cradles the dead Christ.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The Shadow of the Cross' August 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Shadow of the Cross
August 1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Julia Margaret Cameron, 27 September 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

With the addition of a small wooden cross and female model in drapery, Cameron transformed a portrait of her sleeping grandson into an image of the Virgin Mary and the infant Christ. The mother leaning over the child prefigures Mary mourning over the body of her son, who had died on the cross. The framed pictures and curtain in the background reveal the setting as a domestic interior.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Devotion' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Devotion
1865
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Julia Margaret Cameron, 27 September 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

In this unusual horizontal composition, the close-up figures of the sleeping Christ child and the Madonna nearly fill the frame. The title suggests both Christian concepts and the theme of motherhood. Next to the title Cameron wrote: ‘From Life My Grand child age 2 years & 3 months’, making the image simultaneously a religious study and a family portrait.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'St. Agnes' 1864

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
St. Agnes
1864
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Purchased from Julia Margaret Cameron, 17 June 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

This image may have been inspired by poems by Alfred Tennyson and John Keats based on the legend that virgins dream of their future husbands on St Agnes Eve (20 January). To suggest the night, Julia Margaret Cameron printed the photograph dark and added a moon by hand. The sitter is Mary Hillier, Cameron’s housemaid and one of her ‘most beautiful and constant’ models.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The Dream' 1869

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Dream
1869
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Alan S. Cole, 19 April 1913
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

In 1869, Julia Margaret Cameron wrote to Sir Henry Cole, the founding director of the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) of the ‘cruel calamity … which has over taken 45 of my Gems – a honey comb crack extending over the picture appearing at any moment and beyond any power to arrest.’ Cameron blamed her ‘fatally perishable’ photographic chemicals, while members of the Photographic Society suspected the damp climate of the Isle of Wight. Today’s theory is that failure to sufficiently wash the negatives after fixing them caused the problem.

John Milton’s poem On his deceased Wife (about 1658) tells of a fleeting vision of his beloved returning to life in a dream. On this mount she included G.F. Watts’ assessment: ‘quite divine’. Cameron was particularly distraught by the crackling that befell this negative. She seemed not to be bothered, however, by the two smudged fingerprints in the lower right, which form a kind of inadvertent signature.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Henry Taylor' October 10, 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Henry Taylor
October 10, 1867
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Window & Grove, 1963
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

When Julia Margaret Cameron photographed her intellectual heroes such as Alfred Tennyson, Sir John Herschel and Henry Taylor, her aim was to record ‘the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man.’ Another motive was to earn money from prints of the photographs, since her family’s finances were precarious. Within her first year as a photographer she began exhibiting and selling through the London gallery Colnaghi’s. She used autographs to increase the value of some portraits.

For this portrait of her close friend, the playwright and poet Taylor, Cameron broke from her practice of photographing male heads emerging from darkness. As with some of her female heads, the sitter’s face fills the frame, while his sleeve and beard flow beyond its confines.

 

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Charles Darwin
1868; printed 1875
Carbon print from copy negative
Given by Mrs Ida S. Perrin, 1939
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

The naturalist Charles Darwin and his family rented a cottage in Freshwater from the Camerons in the summer of 1868. By 27 July, Colnaghi’s was advertising, ‘we are glad to observe her gallery of great men enriched by a very fine portrait of Charles Darwin’. Due to the sitter’s celebrity, Cameron later had this portrait reprinted as a more stable carbon print. When Cameron photographed her intellectual heroes such as Alfred Tennyson, Sir John Herschel and Henry Taylor, her aim was to record ‘the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man.’

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'Portrait of Herschel' 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
Portrait of Herschel
April 1867
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Window & Grove, 1963
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Herschel was an eminent scientist who made important contributions to astronomy and photography. Cameron wrote of this sitting, ‘When I have such men before my camera my whole soul has endeavoured to do its duty towards them in recording faithfully the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man. The photograph thus taken has been almost the embodiment of a prayer.’

 

 

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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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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