Water-Babies

Photograph
1887 (published)
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This 1887 portfolio is a poetic portrayal of East Norfolk. Emerson depicts the region as an ‘earthly paradise’ that is in harmony with the changing seasons; from the pleasure of men contemplating the forthcoming harvest in Spring, to the silence of landscape in the snowy Winter, viewers can experience the peacefulness of pastoral life for themselves.
Emerson was particularly rigorous about printing processes and technical excellence. He favoured a photomechanical process called photogravure (or what he also referred to as ‘autogravure’, ‘copper plate engraving’ and ‘photo-etching’) for its ‘subtlety and delicacy’.
He describes the 12 images within this portfolio as ‘printed from copper plates’ reproduced from his original negatives that were ‘taken directly from Nature’ – being faithful to what the lens had captured rather than creating artificial composites in the studio or dark room. He also specifies that in the process of reproduction ‘no retouching has marred the subtleties of Nature’s handiwork’.

Here, Emerson seems mesmerised by the ‘graceful movements’ of two young and naked bathers, captured whilst swimming and playing ‘through the weedy depths’. He seems to admire their ‘simple pleasures’ and concludes his accompanying text wondering ‘who is the happier - the cultured men of the town, or the ignorant inhabitant of the village’.


object details
Category
Object Type
Additional TitleIdyls of the Norfolk Broads (series title)
Materials and Techniques
photogravure
Brief Description
Photograph, 'Water-Babies', by Peter Henry Emerson, photogravure, Plate 6, from the 'Idyls of the Norfolk Broads' portfolio, 1887
Physical Description
A mounted black and white photograph on India paper showing
Dimensions
  • Image height: 15.9cm
  • Image width: 12.2cm
  • Paper height: 43.3cm
  • Paper width: 34cm
Styles
Credit line
Presented by P.H. Emerson on 27 March, 1888
Summary
This 1887 portfolio is a poetic portrayal of East Norfolk. Emerson depicts the region as an ‘earthly paradise’ that is in harmony with the changing seasons; from the pleasure of men contemplating the forthcoming harvest in Spring, to the silence of landscape in the snowy Winter, viewers can experience the peacefulness of pastoral life for themselves.

Emerson was particularly rigorous about printing processes and technical excellence. He favoured a photomechanical process called photogravure (or what he also referred to as ‘autogravure’, ‘copper plate engraving’ and ‘photo-etching’) for its ‘subtlety and delicacy’.

He describes the 12 images within this portfolio as ‘printed from copper plates’ reproduced from his original negatives that were ‘taken directly from Nature’ – being faithful to what the lens had captured rather than creating artificial composites in the studio or dark room. He also specifies that in the process of reproduction ‘no retouching has marred the subtleties of Nature’s handiwork’.



Here, Emerson seems mesmerised by the ‘graceful movements’ of two young and naked bathers, captured whilst swimming and playing ‘through the weedy depths’. He seems to admire their ‘simple pleasures’ and concludes his accompanying text wondering ‘who is the happier - the cultured men of the town, or the ignorant inhabitant of the village’.

Bibliographic Reference
John Taylor The old order and the new: P H Emerson and photography, 1885-1895 Munich; New York; London: Prestel, 2006. 160p.: ill (some col). ISBN: 3791336991 / 9783791336992.
Collection
Accession Number
E.143-2015

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdMay 11, 2015
Record URL