Posts Tagged ‘Henry Taylor

07
Jun
19

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

Exhibition dates: 12th March – 9th June 2019

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Marcus

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

 

 

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

.
Oscar G. Rejlander

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Portraits and Images of Everyday Life

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

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

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

 

Combination Printing and Two Ways of Life

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

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

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

 

Art and Photography

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Knucklebones

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

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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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’.

.
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’.

.
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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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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