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Scotch Fir

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Date:

    19th century-20th century (made)
    ca. 1900 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Irving, Henry (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Platinum print

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased from the photographer

  • Museum number:

    PH.2117-1900

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 950, box D

Henry Irving was a British photographer who photographed trees and flowers in and around London from about 1899-1922. He often photographed one tree from the same standpoint in both summer and winter, and made detailed studies of its bark and foliage. The pairings reveal the passage of the year. The museum purchased the photographs directly from the photographer over the course of 6 years between 1899 and 1905.

Irving mastered two complex photographic techniques: the platinum print and the autochrome, which is an early colour process. A number of autochromes and glass negatives are held by the Natural History Museum. The V&A collection holds 183 of Irving's tree, bark and foliage studies, all platinum prints of exquisite quality. The platinum process was a refined printing technique that allowed for a plethora of grey shades and great amount of detail. Irving’s mastery of the process becomes apparent in the refined outline of individual branches and the detailed texture of the bark, leaves and flowers. The prints mark the high tide of the platinum process, which became less common after the outbreak of the First World War. Platinum proved an excellent catalyst for explosives, and was therefore too precious a material to use for printing.

Though Irving was never a member of the Royal Photographic Society, his photographs were exhibited during his lifetime in the annual exhibitions of 1899 (1 print), 1910 (1 print), 1911 (4 prints), 1913 (6 prints), 1914 (1 print), 1915 (3 prints), 1921 (7 autochromes) and 1922 (13 prints). His work was published in books for fine art students as aides to draw from nature, as well as numerous botanical publications held by the NAL.

Date

19th century-20th century (made)
ca. 1900 (made)

Artist/maker

Irving, Henry (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Platinum print

Marks and inscriptions

All of Irving’s photographs in the V&A collection are marked with the NAL blindstamp. The original mounts are signed with his name and inscribed with the title and place, most often ‘Bromley, Kent’, which likely refers to his place of residence.

Dimensions

Height: 246 mm paper mount, Width: 202 mm paper mount

Object history note

The museum purchased the photographs directly from the photographer over the course of 6 years between 1899 and 1905.

Descriptive line

19/20thC; Irving Henry, Scotch Fir

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Wayside and Woodland Trees: a Pocket Guide to the British Sylva (1905) by Edward Step, illustrated with one hundred and twenty-seven plates with photographs by Henry Irving.

Flowers and Plants for Designers and Schools (1907) by Edward F. Strange, illustrated with photographs by Henry Irving.

Trees and their Life Histories (1909) by Percy Groom, illustrated with photographs by Henry Irving.

How to Know the Trees (1911) by Henry Irving.

The Nature-Lover’s Handbook (1911) by R. Kearton, illustrated with photographs by Henry Irving.

Trees, a Woodland Notebook (1915) by Herbert Eustace Maxwell, illustrated with photographs by Henry Irving and others.

A review of How to Know the Trees was published by C.L.F. in American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Mar., 1922), p. 72

Labels and date

Despite its remarkable and consistent quality, Irving’s work has long gone unnoticed. He mastered platinum printing and worked methodically on large series of images showing botanical specimens at Bromley, Horley and London’s Kew Gardens. His photographs were exhibited during his lifetime at the Royal Photographic Society and used as illustrations for a number of publications, including Flowers and Plants for Designers and Schools (1907). [28-04-2015]

Categories

Photographs; Photographic Studies

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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