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Water-Babies

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    East Anglia (photographed)
    England (photographed)

  • Date:

    1887 (published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Emerson, Peter Henry, born 1856 - died 1936 (photographer)
    The Autotype Fine Art Company Limited. (publisher)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Photogravure

  • Credit Line:

    Found In Department

  • Museum number:

    E.1289-1989

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 418, box D

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’.

Physical description

A mounted black and white on India paper showing two boys in water. Reeds are visible in the background

Place of Origin

East Anglia (photographed)
England (photographed)

Date

1887 (published)

Artist/maker

Emerson, Peter Henry, born 1856 - died 1936 (photographer)
The Autotype Fine Art Company Limited. (publisher)

Materials and Techniques

Photogravure

Dimensions

Height: 15.9 cm image, Width: 12.2 cm image, Height: 43.3 cm paper, Width: 34 cm paper

Descriptive line

Photograph, 'Water-Babies', by Peter Henry Emerson, photogravure, Plate 6, from the 'Idyls of the Norfolk Broads' portfolio, 1887

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

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.

Subjects depicted

Boy; Reeds

Categories

Photographs; Children & Childhood

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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