Lady Clementina

Already in the third week I’m beginning to feel a bit overwhelmed, the discipline I set myself of reading up before each lecture gets more difficult. This week it was photography, and discussion of the varying styles of art historical writing afforded to a particular photographer of the 1860’s, Lady Clementina Hawarden, who I had not heard of before. She produced a number of “Studies from Life”, photographing her two eldest daughters in various poses, many suggesting a narrative.  One of the things I like about her is that she did not give any titles to her images, unlike her much better-known contemporary Julia Margaret Cameron.  It is easy to imagine the sentimental or melodramatic captions which many Victorians would have attached to them. I particularly liked this, partly the skilful composition and handling of light, but also the sense of barely suppressed emotion.

I beg you, do not think ill of me for this

I just made up the caption, feel free to supply your own.

Most of her work is at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and can be seen online here.  A few of her images were purchased (apparently at a charity fundraising) by Lewis Carroll, himself an accomplished photographer, and are now in a collection of his writings and photos somewhere in Texas, but otherwise her images were very definitely not for sale – it would have been unthinkable to suggest that her daughters had posed as artists’ models for the public to buy pictures of them – at the time, to be an “artist’s model” was considered barely a step up from prostitution.  The story goes that when Lewis Carroll called on Lady Clementina to inquire if he could purchase more images, she refused him entry.

Next week it gets heavy, with “Artistic Synthesis and Artistic Purity”.

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