Spanish Chestnut, Albury Park,  Surrey thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, room 512M , Case MX13A, Shelf X, Box 182

Spanish Chestnut, Albury Park, Surrey

Photograph
1857-8 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The South Kensington Museum was established in 1852 following the success of the Great Exhibition. Charles Thurston Thompson (1816-1868) was appointed as the first official photographer for the Museum in 1856 by the then-director, Henry Cole. The South Kensington Museum was therefore one of the first institutions in the world to have its own photographic services. Thurston Thompson originally trained as a wood-engraver like his father, John Thompson, but directed his attention towards learning photography, particularly the wet-collodion process, in the 1840s. In 1856, Thurston Thompson was also assigned by the War Department to teach photography to non-commissioned officers of the Royal Engineers. This made them one of the first groups of military personnel to learn photography under formalised instruction.

Thurston Thompson led a very active career and worked almost exclusively for the Department of Science and Art at the Museum. During his tenure, he produced approximately 10,000 negatives documenting works of art, architecture and various exhibitions, which were printed by his staff. Since accessibility was part of the museum’s mission, these photographs (and sometimes negatives) were made available for purchase to scholars and the general public in catalogue-style ‘Guardbooks’. Public access to museum collections became a crucial part of British government policy in the mid-nineteenth century. The South Kensington Museum was established with these goals in mind, and the institution offered exhibitions, training, and educational opportunities to stimulate the public’s appreciation of and engagement with art and industrial design.

Volume 4: Studies of Trees is a series of photographs that was likely to have been made on or near Henry Cole’s estate in Surrey, England in 1857-58. The photographs depict trees individually and systematically in groups, and sometimes a figure was included to reference scale. These images were often used as educational references by students of art and design. Prints of the tree studies were available for sale and were priced £4.10s for a mounted set of 20, and 5s for separate mounted proofs. The location of the images being Henry Cole’s estate was not unusual as Thurston Thompson later married Cole’s sister, Charlotte. The photographs could be found in the Guardbooks alongside objects from the Museum’s collection but the private sale of these prints, which were not museum objects, concerned the Select Committee of the House of Commons. Cole explained to the Committee that since the grounds in which these trees were located were inaccessible to the general public, they could therefore only be photographed by an appointed professional. This explanation satisfied the Committee and the prints subsequently remained in the Guardbooks.



References

Deazley, Ronan. “Photography, Copyright, and the South Kensington Experiment” Intellectual Property Quarterly, 3, pp. 293-311.

Fontanella, Lee. Thurston Thompson

Haworth-Booth, Mark. Photography: An Independent Art. (London: V&A Publications, 2004).

Physick, John. Photography and the South Kensington Museum. (London: V&A Publications, 1975).


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Albumen print
Brief Description
Photograph by Charles Thurston Thompson, 'Spanish Chestnut, Albury Park, Surrey', 1857-8, albumen print
Physical Description
Black and white photograph of two men in uniform from the Royal Engineers lounging on the grass beside the large trunk of a Spanish chestnut tree. Located on page 55 of 59 in the album.
Dimensions
  • Paper mount height: 246mm
  • Paper mount width: 202mm
Summary
The South Kensington Museum was established in 1852 following the success of the Great Exhibition. Charles Thurston Thompson (1816-1868) was appointed as the first official photographer for the Museum in 1856 by the then-director, Henry Cole. The South Kensington Museum was therefore one of the first institutions in the world to have its own photographic services. Thurston Thompson originally trained as a wood-engraver like his father, John Thompson, but directed his attention towards learning photography, particularly the wet-collodion process, in the 1840s. In 1856, Thurston Thompson was also assigned by the War Department to teach photography to non-commissioned officers of the Royal Engineers. This made them one of the first groups of military personnel to learn photography under formalised instruction.



Thurston Thompson led a very active career and worked almost exclusively for the Department of Science and Art at the Museum. During his tenure, he produced approximately 10,000 negatives documenting works of art, architecture and various exhibitions, which were printed by his staff. Since accessibility was part of the museum’s mission, these photographs (and sometimes negatives) were made available for purchase to scholars and the general public in catalogue-style ‘Guardbooks’. Public access to museum collections became a crucial part of British government policy in the mid-nineteenth century. The South Kensington Museum was established with these goals in mind, and the institution offered exhibitions, training, and educational opportunities to stimulate the public’s appreciation of and engagement with art and industrial design.



Volume 4: Studies of Trees is a series of photographs that was likely to have been made on or near Henry Cole’s estate in Surrey, England in 1857-58. The photographs depict trees individually and systematically in groups, and sometimes a figure was included to reference scale. These images were often used as educational references by students of art and design. Prints of the tree studies were available for sale and were priced £4.10s for a mounted set of 20, and 5s for separate mounted proofs. The location of the images being Henry Cole’s estate was not unusual as Thurston Thompson later married Cole’s sister, Charlotte. The photographs could be found in the Guardbooks alongside objects from the Museum’s collection but the private sale of these prints, which were not museum objects, concerned the Select Committee of the House of Commons. Cole explained to the Committee that since the grounds in which these trees were located were inaccessible to the general public, they could therefore only be photographed by an appointed professional. This explanation satisfied the Committee and the prints subsequently remained in the Guardbooks.







References



Deazley, Ronan. “Photography, Copyright, and the South Kensington Experiment” Intellectual Property Quarterly, 3, pp. 293-311.



Fontanella, Lee. Thurston Thompson



Haworth-Booth, Mark. Photography: An Independent Art. (London: V&A Publications, 2004).



Physick, John. Photography and the South Kensington Museum. (London: V&A Publications, 1975).

Collection
Accession Number
32972

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record createdJune 30, 2009
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