W[illia]m [Michael] Rossetti thumbnail 1
W[illia]m [Michael] Rossetti 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 Q

W[illia]m [Michael] Rossetti

Photograph
May 1865 (photographed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Julia Margaret Cameron’s first photographic subjects were family and friends. These early portraits reveal how she experimented with dramatic lighting and close-up compositions, features that would become her signature style.

In May 1865 Cameron used her sister’s London home, Little Holland House, as her photographic headquarters. Her sister Sara Prinsep, together with her husband Thoby, had established a cultural salon there, centred around the artist George Frederic Watts. Cameron photographed numerous members of their circle on the lawn. These included artists, writers, collectors and Henry Cole, the director of the South Kensington Museum.

William Michael, brother of artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was best known as an art critic. He posed several times for Cameron. At the right edge of this composition, a hand holds an umbrella, which Cameron used to control light levels in her photographs. Henry Cole mentioned this practice in his diary entry about his sitting: ‘A German girl held an umbrella over me’.



object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Brief Description
Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 'William Michael Rossetti', albumen print, May 1865
Physical Description
A photographic portrait of the head and shoulders of the art critic William Michael Rossetti wearing a black cap and cloak sitting against a black background. On the right edge of the composition, a hand can be seen holding an umbrella.
Dimensions
  • Height: 25.2cm
  • Image width: 20.4cm
  • Height: 29.8cm
  • Mount width: 24.2cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
  • '44.956' (on mount, under print, lower right; inscribed; brown ink)
  • 'x.311 Photographs by mrs. Julia Margaret Cameron, c. 1864-75./ William Michael Rossetti./44956' (Museum labels; pasting)
Gallery Label
Julia Margaret Cameron Victoria and Albert Museum William Michael Rossetti 1865 William Michael Rossetti, brother of artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was best known as an art critic. He posed several times for Cameron. At the right edge of this composition, a hand holds an umbrella that Cameron used to control light levels in her photographs. Henry Cole mentioned this practice in his diary about his sitting: ‘A German girl held an umbrella over me’. Given by or purchased from Julia Margaret Cameron, July 1865 V&A: 44:956 (28 November 2015 – 21 February 2016)
Credit line
Given by or Purchased from Julia Margaret Cameron, 28 & 31 July 1865
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.

Production
Title and date inscribed on another print from same negative in the Overstone Album held by the J.Paul Getty Museum.
Subject depicted
Summary
Julia Margaret Cameron’s first photographic subjects were family and friends. These early portraits reveal how she experimented with dramatic lighting and close-up compositions, features that would become her signature style.



In May 1865 Cameron used her sister’s London home, Little Holland House, as her photographic headquarters. Her sister Sara Prinsep, together with her husband Thoby, had established a cultural salon there, centred around the artist George Frederic Watts. Cameron photographed numerous members of their circle on the lawn. These included artists, writers, collectors and Henry Cole, the director of the South Kensington Museum.



William Michael, brother of artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was best known as an art critic. He posed several times for Cameron. At the right edge of this composition, a hand holds an umbrella, which Cameron used to control light levels in her photographs. Henry Cole mentioned this practice in his diary entry about his sitting: ‘A German girl held an umbrella over me’.



Bibliographic References
  • Julian Cox and Colin Ford et al. Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs. London: Thames and Hudson, 2003, cat. no 751, p. 344.
  • Weiss, Marta. Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world. London: MACK, 2015, p.63.
Collection
Accession Number
44956

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record createdJune 21, 2003
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