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Photograph - 2d. Version of Study after the Elgin Marbles
  • 2d. Version of Study after the Elgin Marbles
    Cameron, Julia Margaret, born 1815 - died 1879
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2d. Version of Study after the Elgin Marbles

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    England (photographed)

  • Date:

    1867 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cameron, Julia Margaret, born 1815 - died 1879 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

  • Credit Line:

    Nevinson Bequest, 1990

  • Museum number:

    E.2745-1990

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 311, box N

Just as she modelled her Madonna photographs on Renaissance art, Julia Margaret Cameron looked to painting and sculpture 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, however, purchased only 'Madonnas' and 'Fancy Subjects', and exhibited them as pictures in their own right.

Physical description

A photograph of two seated woman, in flowing light coloured dresses, one facing the camera (Cyllena Wilson), the other (Mary Hillier) in profile, leaning against her.

Place of Origin

England (photographed)

Date

1867 (photographed)

Artist/maker

Cameron, Julia Margaret, born 1815 - died 1879 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

Dimensions

Height: 58.2 cm, Width: 46.5 cm

Object history note

Julia Margaret Cameron's career as a photographer began in 1863 when her daughter gave her a camera. Cameron began photographing everyone in sight. Because of the newness of photography as a practice, she was free to make her own rules and not be bound to convention. The kinds of images being made at the time did not interest Cameron. She was interested in capturing another kind of photographic truth. Not one dependent on accuracy of sharp detail, but one that depicted the emotional state of her sitter.

Cameron liked the soft focus portraits and the streak marks on her negatives, choosing to work with these irregularities, making them part of her pictures. Although at the time Cameron was seen as an unconventional and experimental photographer, her images have a solid place in the history of photography.

Most of Cameron's photographs are portraits. She used members of her family as sitters and made photographs than concentrated on their faces. She was interested in conveying their natural beauty, often asking female sitters to let down their hair so as to show them in a way that they were not accustomed to presenting themselves. In addition to making stunning and evocative portraits both of male and female subjects, Cameron also staged tableaux and posed her sitters in situations that simulated allegorical paintings.

Descriptive line

Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, '2d. Version of Study after the Elgin Marbles' (sitters Cyllena Wilson, Mary Hillier), albumen print, 1867

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

Cat. no. 1111, p. 454
Cox, Julian and Colin Ford, with contributions by Joanne Lukitsh and Philippa Wright. Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs. London: Thames & Hudson, in association with The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles and The National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, Bradford, 2003. ISBN: 0-500-54265-1

Labels and date

British Galleries:
The photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron, experimented with different attitudes and poses of her models.The poses of the two figures in this photograph imitate the poses of two headless figures from the sculptures in the British Museum known as the Elgin Marbles. These marbles were widely copied and were a source of inspiration for artists. [27/03/2003]
Object Type
Albumen prints were the first glossy, coated photographic prints. They were in general use from about 1855 to 1890. They were made from thin paper, which was first coated with a mixture of whisked albumen (egg white) and salt, then sensitised with silver nitrate. This print was made from a glass negative.

Ownership & Use
Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) printed photographs to show in fine art exhibitions and gave copies to family, friends and sitters. In 1865 the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) became the first museum to exhibit and purchase her works. That same year Cameron sent 34 photographs as a gift to the collection. Her photographs were deposited in the Art Library and in the Circulation Department (which distributed artworks and teaching materials to tour throughout the country). However the Museum's Prints, Drawings and Paintings Department acquired this particular photograph in the 1990s.

People
The two people in the photograph are Cyllena Wilson (on the left) and Mary Ryan (on the right). Wilson was the daughter of a missionary orphaned at 15 and adopted by Cameron. Later, in 1870, she ran away from the Camerons' home on the Isle of Wight. Ryan was a London beggar who had approached Cameron. The photographer was struck by her beauty and offered her a job as her housemaid while also employing her as a model. []

Materials

Photographic paper

Techniques

Albumen process

Subjects depicted

Sculpture

Categories

Photographs

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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