Tate Britain presents an exhibition which explores the relationship between British painters and photographers, the exhibition entitled Painting with Light covers a 70 year period in which painters and photographers began to question notions of beauty and art itself.
The exhibition brings together nearly 200 works to reveal the mutual influence of photography and painting includes works by John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, JAM Whistler and John Singer Sargent. Many pioneers of early photographers are featured including David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, Roger Fenton, William Henry Fox Talbot and Julia Margaret Cameron.
The first room explores the influence of JMW Turner on early photography, Turner’s Edinburgh from Carlton Hill is shown with a series of photographs by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson on the same subject matter. The work of photographer Robert Adamson with painter David Octavius Hill provides an early example of the two media working together for mutual benefits. David Octavius Hill’s iconic Disruption Portrait 1843-66 – a 12ft long painting featuring 457 portraits is exhibited outside of Scotland for the first time in over a century.
The exhibition illustrates the way photography and painting began to influence each other in a wide range of subject matter, John Everett Millais’s The Woodman’s Daughter and John Brett’s Glacier Rosenlaui inspired a number of photographers to explore nature and panoramic views.
It was not just in Britain that the mutual influence of painting and photography was expressed, both artists and photographers travelled around Europe and the Holy Land to create work that was very popular in Victorian Britain. James Graham’s Nazareth from the North and William Holman Hunt’s Nazareth provide evidence of the close collaboration that often occurred.
Gradually, photographers began to realise the commercial benefit of reproducing paintings, some of the highlights of the show is examples of three-dimensional photography, which incorporated the use of models and props to create a tableaux from popular works of the time, Henry Wallis’s Chatterton was a popular work to be used in this way and these stereographs became widely available to the general public, often being used as a form of after-dinner entertainment for middle class Victorian families.
The relationship between photography and painting was sometimes based on the personal relationship of the photographer and the artist. Julia Margaret Cameron’s artistic friendships with George Frederic Watts and Dante Gabriel Rossetti are explored in a room devoted to their enigmatic portraits of each other and shared models, where works include Cameron’s Call, I Follow, I Follow, Let Me Die and Rossetti’s Beata Beatrix.
Other areas covered include Life and Landscape, Atmosphere and Effect that compares Whistler’s and Langdon Coburn’s smoky Thames nocturnes . The room entitled Into Light and Colour illustrates it was not all doom and gloom, John Singer Sargent’s iconic Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose and Whistler’s Three Figure: Pink and Grey inspired photographers to look for beauty in gardens and flowers.
In the final room, Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s iconic Proserpine hangs near to Zaida Ben-Yusif’s The Odor of Pomegranates to offer evidence of how in this period the definitions of beauty were being challenged and overthrown.
This intriguing exhibition explores the little known relationship between painters and photographers and how it developed over a 70 year period. Like any new technology, photography looked to other media for inspiration and began to see the artistic and commercial merits of reproducing works of art and following popular trends. Artists began to see photography as a useful tool and often used photographs for inspiration. Gradually photographers began to be seen as artists in their own field and a number of collaborations with painters allowed for mutual benefit. This exhibition features a number of iconic paintings and photographs which provides plenty of interest for visitors and give valuable insights into one of the most exciting periods of British Art history.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age
11 May – 25 September 2016
Adult £18.00 (without donation £16.30)
Concession £16.00 (without donation £14.50)
Under 12s go free (up to four per parent or guardian). Family tickets available
For more information or to book tickets, visit the Tate Britain website here
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