'Three Fishers went sailing out into the West' thumbnail 1
'Three Fishers went sailing out into the West' thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F , Case X, Shelf 311, Box L

'Three Fishers went sailing out into the West'

Photograph
May 1874 (photographed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Julia Margaret Cameron looked to painting and sculpture and in this case, song and poetry, as inspiration for her allegorical and narrative subjects. Some works are photographic interpretations of specific paintings by artists such as Raphael and Michelangelo. Others aspired more generally to create ‘Pictorial Effect’.

Cameron's harshest critics attacked her for using the supposedly truthful medium of photography to depict imaginary subject matter. Some suggested that at best her photographs could serve as studies for painters. The South Kensington Museum mainly acquired 'Madonnas' and 'Fancy Subjects', and exhibited them as pictures in their own right.

This scene illustrates the song and poem ‘Three Fishers Went Sailing out into the West’. It shows a fisherman’s family awaiting his return from sea, the daughter kneeling in prayer. The sentimental and religious themes are typical of Cameron’s tableau photographs. However the staging is more developed than in most of her work which is often evocative rather than literal.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Brief Description
Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 'Three Fishers went sailing out into the West' (sitters Mary Hillier, Daisy Taylor, unknown man, Edmund Knight), albumen print, 1874

Physical Description
A photograph a child (Daisy Taylor), kneeling in profile at the feet of a young woman (Mary Hillier), seated on the left side of image, posed in profile with cap on head. A balding seated man on the right side of image holding a fishing net wraps his left arm around a child (Edmund Knight). In the background is a hearth with a hat and bellows hanging on the wall above.
Dimensions
  • Image height: 365mm
  • Image width: 275mm
  • Mount height: 580mm
  • Mount width: 380mm
  • Mount height: 386mm
  • Mount width: 277mm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
"From Life Registered Photograph Copy Right, Julia Margaret Cameron Freshwater Isle of Wight now at / Balmoral / Lindula / Ceylon" in ink lower recto of mount. "Group illustrating Song 'Three Fishers went sailing out into the West' / The child and her mother's knee prays for the return of her Father; the little Brother / is standing between the knees of the old grandfather, who stops mending his net to listen to you / in the prayer." in ink bottom centre recto of mount.
Gallery Label
Label for 'Making It Up: Photographic Fictions' (3 May 2013 - 12 January 2014): Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 – 79) Three Fishers Went Sailing out into the West 1874 This scene illustrates the song and poem ‘Three Fishers Went Sailing out into the West’. It shows a fisherman’s family awaiting his return from sea, the daughter kneeling in prayer. The sentimental and religious themes are typical of Cameron’s tableau photographs. However the staging is more developed than in most of her work which is often evocative rather than literal. Albumen print Gift of Miss Perrin, 1939 Museum no. 22-1939
Credit line
Given by Mrs Ida S. Perrin, 1939
Object history
Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–79) was one of the most important and innovative photographers of the 19th century. Her photographs were rule-breaking: purposely out of focus, and often including scratches, smudges and other traces of the artist’s process. Best known for her powerful portraits, she also posed her sitters – friends, family and servants – as characters from biblical, historical or allegorical stories.



Born in Calcutta on 11 June 1815, the fourth of seven sisters, her father was an East India Company official and her mother descended from French aristocracy. Educated mainly in France, Cameron returned to India in 1834.



In 1842, the British astronomer Sir John Herschel (1792 – 1871) introduced Cameron to photography, sending her examples of the new invention. They had met in 1836 while Cameron was convalescing from an illness in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. He remained a life-long friend and correspondent on technical photographic matters. That same year she met Charles Hay Cameron (1795–1880), 20 years her senior, a reformer of Indian law and education. They married in Calcutta in 1838 and she became a prominent hostess in colonial society. A decade later, the Camerons moved to England. By then they had four children; two more were born in England. Several of Cameron’s sisters were already living there, and had established literary, artistic and social connections. The Camerons eventually settled in Freshwater, on the Isle of Wight.



At the age of 48 Cameron 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.



The Camerons lived at Freshwater until 1875, when they moved to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where Charles Cameron had purchased coffee and rubber plantations, managed under difficult agricultural and financial conditions by three of their sons. Cameron continued her photographic practice at her new home yet her output decreased significantly and only a small body of photographs from this time remains. After moving to Ceylon the Camerons made only one more visit to England in May 1878. Julia Margaret Cameron died after a brief illness in Ceylon in 1879.



Cameron’s relationship with the Victoria and Albert Museum dates to the earliest years of her photographic career. The first museum exhibition of Cameron's work was held in 1865 at the South Kensington Museum, London (now the V&A). The South Kensington Museum was not only the sole museum to exhibit Cameron’s work in her lifetime, but also the institution that collected her photographs most extensively in her day. In 1868 the Museum gave Cameron the use of two rooms as a portrait studio, perhaps qualifying her as its first artist-in-residence. Today the V&A’s Cameron collection includes photographs acquired directly from the artist, others collected later from various sources, and five letters from Cameron to Sir Henry Cole (1808–82), the Museum’s founding director and an early supporter of photography.

Subjects depicted
Literary ReferenceThe first stanza from Charles Kingsley's 1851 poem The Three Fishers reads: "Three fishers went sailing away to the west, / Away to the west as the sun went down; / Each thought on the woman who loved him the best, / And the children stood watching them out of the town; / For men must work, and women must weep, / And there's little to earn, and many to keep, / Though the harbour bar be moaning."
Summary
Julia Margaret Cameron looked to painting and sculpture and in this case, song and poetry, as inspiration for her allegorical and narrative subjects. Some works are photographic interpretations of specific paintings by artists such as Raphael and Michelangelo. Others aspired more generally to create ‘Pictorial Effect’.



Cameron's harshest critics attacked her for using the supposedly truthful medium of photography to depict imaginary subject matter. Some suggested that at best her photographs could serve as studies for painters. The South Kensington Museum mainly acquired 'Madonnas' and 'Fancy Subjects', and exhibited them as pictures in their own right.



This scene illustrates the song and poem ‘Three Fishers Went Sailing out into the West’. It shows a fisherman’s family awaiting his return from sea, the daughter kneeling in prayer. The sentimental and religious themes are typical of Cameron’s tableau photographs. However the staging is more developed than in most of her work which is often evocative rather than literal.
Bibliographic References
  • Ford, Colin and Cox, Julian. Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs. London: Thames and Hudson, 2003. Cat. no. 1154, p.465, ill.
  • Gernsheim, Helmut. Julia Margaret Cameron: Her Life and Photographic Work. London: Fountain Press, 1948, plate 14.
  • Gernsheim, Helmut. Julia Margaret Cameron: Her Life and Photographic Work. Millerton, N.Y.: Aperture, 1975, p. 79.
  • Hopkinson, Amanda. Julia Margaret Cameron. London: Virago Press, 1986, p. 149.
  • Lukitsh, Joanne. Cameron: Her Work and Career. Rochester, N.Y.: International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, 1986, p.87.
  • Woolf, Virgina and Fry, Robert. Victorian Photographs of Famous Men and Fair Woman. Edited by Tristam Powell, Boston: David R. Godine, 1973, pl. 33.
  • Weiss, Marta. Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world. London: MACK, 2015, p. 160.
Collection
Accession Number
22-1939

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record createdJuly 1, 2009
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