The Passing of King Arthur thumbnail 1
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 U

The Passing of King Arthur

Photograph
1874 (photographed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

In 1874 Alfred Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, invited Cameron to make photographic illustrations to Idylls of the King, his series of narrative poems based on the legends of King Arthur. After the large photographs were published as small, wood-cut copies, Cameron decided to produce an edition illustrated by original photographic prints accompanied by hand-written extracts from the poems printed in facsimile. She claimed to have made as many as 245 exposures to arrive at the 25 she finally published in two volumes in 1874 and 1875.

Although Cameron also attempted a more melodramatic depiction of Arthur’s death scene, this heroic portrait of the king emphasises the individual. Cameron used this as the last image in Volume I of the Idylls, but she also exhibited it on its own.



object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Brief Description
Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 'The Passing of King Arthur' (sitter William Warder), albumen print, 1874
Physical Description
A photograph of a bearded man (William Warder) in 3/4 profile, wearing chainmail and an armour helmet, his right hand rests on the grip of a sword
Dimensions
  • Height: 34.5cm
  • Image width: 25.5cm
  • Height: 38.0cm
  • Mount width: 25.5cm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'From life Registered Photograph Copyright Julia Margaret Cameron Freshwater Isle of Wi/now at Balmoral (illeg)/Kindula Ceylon.' (on mount under print, left to right; inscribed; brown ink)
  • 'The passing of King Arthur' (on mount, lower centre; inscribed; brown ink)
  • 'And Moved ghost like to his doom' / Julia Margaret Cameron'
  • 'For Philadelphia / Immediate' (ink, by Julia Margaret Cameron)
Gallery Label
Julia Margaret Cameron Victoria and Albert Museum The Passing of King Arthur 1874 Although Cameron also attempted a more melodramatic depiction of Arthur’s death scene, this heroic portrait of the king emphasises the individual. Cameron used this as the last image in Volume II of the Idylls, but she also exhibited it on its own. Given by Mrs Ida S. Perrin, 1939 V&A: 27-1939(28 November 2015 – 21 February 2016)
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 ReferenceAlfred Lord Tennyson, "Idylls of the King" (1859)
Summary
In 1874 Alfred Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, invited Cameron to make photographic illustrations to Idylls of the King, his series of narrative poems based on the legends of King Arthur. After the large photographs were published as small, wood-cut copies, Cameron decided to produce an edition illustrated by original photographic prints accompanied by hand-written extracts from the poems printed in facsimile. She claimed to have made as many as 245 exposures to arrive at the 25 she finally published in two volumes in 1874 and 1875.



Although Cameron also attempted a more melodramatic depiction of Arthur’s death scene, this heroic portrait of the king emphasises the individual. Cameron used this as the last image in Volume I of the Idylls, but she also exhibited it on its own.



Bibliographic References
  • 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: 0-500-54265-1Cat. no. 1175, p. 476
  • Weiss, Marta. Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world. London: MACK, 2015, p. 115.
Collection
Accession Number
27-1939

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record createdJune 18, 2003
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