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Exhibition Review – Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the National Portrait Gallery from 1st March to 20th May 2018

The National Portrait Gallery presents an exhibition entitled Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography which combines for the first time ever portraits by Lewis Carroll (1832–98), Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–79), Oscar Rejlander (1813–75) and Lady Clementina Hawarden (1822-65).

The exhibition examines the relationship between the four artists and brings together images drawn from public and private collections internationally. A number of the images have not been seen in Britain since they were made.

Two ways of Life by Oscar Rejlander, 1856-7

The exhibition explores in detail, the remarkable work of Swedish born Oscar Rejlander and features the finest surviving print of his famous picture Two Ways of Life of 1856-7, where he used a pioneering technique combining over 30 different negatives to create a single final image. An album of photographs by Rejlander purchased by the National Portrait Gallery is also on display.

Rejlander inspired many photographers with his ground breaking work  and Carroll, Cameron and Hawarden all studied under Rejlander briefly, and the four continued to exchange ideas about the new art of photography.

The photographers also shared sitters and within the exhibition, visitors can compare how Cameron and Rejlander both photographed the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and the scientist Charles Darwin and how Carroll and Cameron both photographed the actress, Ellen Terry.

Lewis Carroll’s initial fame was through his writing especially Alice in Wonderland, his photography is probably lesser known, however the exhibition provides a connection between the two by featuring a series of Carroll’s photographs of Alice Liddell, his model for Alice, both as a child and a fully grown woman.

The work of Julia Margaret Cameron and Lady Clementina Hawarden is particularly interesting because they were women in a male dominated environment. Their portraits of other women are known for their often complex interpretations. Sadness featuring actress Ellen Terry by Cameron is an example of great technique and sensitivity. Hawarden’s images of the Maude family provide unusual poses with the women often looking away or into a mirror.

One of the consequences of the new art of photography was famous Victorians were photographed for the first time, the exhibition include portraits of sitters such as Charles Darwin, Alice Liddell, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Thomas Carlyle, George Frederick Watts, Ellen Terry and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

This fascinating exhibition challenges the long accepted view that Victorian photography was formal and formulaic. Oscar Rejlander in particular, quickly pushed back the boundaries of the new art of photography. His influence on the other three artists to experiment was considerable and many of the images are remarkable even by today’s standards. All four photographers were pioneers in their own way and influenced latter generations of photographers in a variety of ways.

Video Review available here 

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information, visit the National Portrait Gallery website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide.com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
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Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at The National Portrait Gallery – 1st March to 20th May 2018

Two ways of Life by Oscar Rejlander, 1856-7

Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography (1 March – 20 May 2018), will combine for the first time ever portraits by Lewis Carroll (1832–98), Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–79), Oscar Rejlander (1813–75) and Lady Clementina Hawarden (1822-65).

The exhibition will be the first to examine the relationship between the four ground-breaking artists. Drawn from public and private collections internationally, it will feature some of the most breath-taking images in photographic history, including many which have not been seen in Britain since they were made.

Alice Liddell by Lewis Carroll, 1858

Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography will be the first exhibition in London to feature the work of Swedish born ‘Father of Photoshop’ Oscar Rejlander since the artist’s death. it will include the finest surviving print of his famous picture Two Ways of Life of 1856-7, which used his pioneering technique combining several different negatives to create a single final image. Constructed from over 30 separate negatives, Two Ways of Life was so large it had to be printed on two sheets of paper joined together.

Seldom-seen original negatives by Lewis Carroll and Rejlander will both be shown, allowing visitors to see ‘behind the scenes’ as they made their pictures.

Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1866

An album of photographs by Rejlander purchased by the National Portrait Gallery following an export bar in 2015 will also go on display together with other treasures from the Gallery’s world-famous holdings of Rejlander, Cameron and Carroll, which for conservation reasons are rarely on view. The exhibition will also include works by cult hero Clementina Hawarden, a closely associated photographer. This will be the first major showing of her work since the exhibition Lady Hawarden at the V&A in London and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 1990.

Lewis Carroll’s photographs of Alice Liddell, his muse for Alice in Wonderland, are among the most beloved photographs of the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection. Less well known are the photographs made of Alice years later, showing her a fully grown woman. The exhibition will bring together these works for the first time, as well as Alice Liddell as Beggar Maid on loan from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Photographic study by Clementina Hawarden.

Visitors will be able to see how each photographer approached the same subject, as when Cameron and Rejlander both photographed the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and the scientist Charles Darwin, or when Carroll and Cameron both photographed the actress, Ellen Terry. The exhibition will also include the legendary studies of human emotion Rejlander made for Darwin, on loan from the Darwin Archive at Cambridge University.

Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography celebrates four key nineteenth-century figures, exploring their experimental approach to picture-making. Their radical attitudes towards photography have informed artistic practice ever since.

The four created an unlikely alliance. Rejlander was a Swedish émigré with a mysterious past; Cameron was a middle-aged expatriate from colonial Ceylon (now Sri Lanka); Carroll was an Oxford academic and writer of fantasy literature; and Hawarden was landed genty, the child of a Scottish naval hero and a Spanish beauty, 26 years younger. Yet, Carroll, Cameron and Hawarden all studied under Rejlander briefly, and maintained lasting associations, exchanging ideas about portraiture and narrative. Influenced by historical painting and frequently associated with the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, they formed a bridge between the art of the past and the art of the future, standing as true giants in Victorian photography.

Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography will include portraits of sitters such as Charles Darwin, Alice Liddell, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Thomas Carlyle, George Frederick Watts, Ellen Terry and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

If you would like to find out more about the exhibition, visit the National Portrait Gallery website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide.com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

A Short Guide to the National Portrait Gallery

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The National Portrait Gallery owes its existence mainly to three eminent Victorians, Philip Henry Stanhope, Thomas Babington Macaulay and Thomas Carlyle. Stanhope first introduced the idea for the Gallery in 1846, however it was not until 1856 when The National Portrait Gallery was formally established. One of the first pictures donated was by one of the original trustees Lord Ellesmere.

Unusually the National Portrait Gallery was established with the criteria that the Gallery was to be about history, more than art, and centred around the status of the sitter. Originally, it was decided by the Trustees that “No portrait of any person still living, or deceased less that 10 years, shall be admitted by purchase, donation, or bequest, except only in the case of the reigning Sovereign, and of his or her Consort”. However this rule changed in 1969 to encourage portraits of living sitters.

In the early years of the Gallery, it had no permanent home and was run by George Scharf, an illustrator who was responsible for all aspects of the Gallery. Originally housed at 29 Great George Street, Westminster. The Gallery then moved to the Royal Horticultural Society’s buildings on Exhibition Road in South Kensington in 1869, following a fire, the collection was then moved to the Bethnal Green Museum in 1885.

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There were calls to find a permanent home for the Gallery, In 1889, philanthropist, William Henry Alexander offered to pay for a permanent building, provided the government gave a site within a mile and a half of St James’s Street, and Lord Salisbury for the government accepted the offer and donor’s condition and found a site which had previously been occupied by St Martin’s Workhouse to the north-east of the National Gallery.

The doors were opened in 1896 and 4,200 people visited the new building on the opening day. Its success led to a growing collection and negotiations for expansion. In 1928 the art dealer and benefactor, Sir Joseph Duveen agreed to fund a £40,000 extension, which greatly expanded the available space.

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In the late 1960s, two exhibitions, Cecil Beaton’s photographs in 1968 and the Queen’s portrait by Annigoni raised the profile of the Gallery considerably and attendance figures rose significantly.

There has further developments since and National Portrait Gallery is considered one of the best galleries in London and in 2014 received over two million visitors. As well as the permanent Collection, the Gallery stages six major exhibitions and more than ten special displays a year and runs a full and varied programme of events and an extensive learning and outreach programme. There is also an IT Gallery , a state-of-the-art lecture theatre, a book shop, and the roof-top Portrait Restaurant with views across Trafalgar Square.

Part of the Gallery’s success is the innovative way they bring together different portraits to tell the story of a person or event. They also promote portrait painting by holding several prestigious competitions.

For more information, visit the National Portrait Gallery website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
here

 

Book Review : The Street of Wonderful Possibilities by Devon Cox ( Frances Lincoln )

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Devon Cox’s book, The Street of Wonderful Possibilities focuses on Tite Street in Chelsea which became one of the most influential artistic quarters in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Famous residents including James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Oscar Wilde and John Singer Sargent helped to forge the street’s reputation for a sanctuary for those who followed a bohemian lifestyle.

Even before Tite Street had been created, Chelsea had developed a reputation as a haven for writers and artists. In the 1830s, Thomas Carlyle became the ‘Sage of Chelsea’ and in the 1840s, the mysterious ‘Mr Booth’ who lived in a small Chelsea cottage was none other than J.M.W Turner. The 1860s saw Dante Gabriel Rossetti after the death of his wife relocate to Cheyne Walk on the Chelsea riverfront with poet Algernon Swinburne. It was also at this time American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler began his long association with the area. Both Rossetti and Whistler developed their own social gatherings and led to the idea that the area was becoming more bohemian. However, by the 1870s, the bohemian clique was beginning to relocate and even Whistler left Chelsea.

It was not only residents that were changing, Chelsea had been a small village in the first part of the 19th century but by the 1860s and 1870s it had become a part of the expanding metropolis. It was part of this development that led to the creation of Tite Street. The whole Chelsea riverfront was developed with a new embankment and Tite Street was developed to create a link between the Royal Hospital Road and the new embankment.

Whistler was looking for custom-built house with a studio and employed his friend and architect E. W. Godwin to create his dream house in Tite Street. For Godwin it was to be a more difficult task than he considered with Whistler often battling with the Metropolitan  board of works over the finer details of the house. Eventually The White House was completed in 1878 and become the first of an artist colony in Tite street, others followed including the young aristocrat artist Archibald Stuart Wortley, Carlo ‘Ape’ Pellegrini, Frank Miles and a certain Oscar Wilde. Whistler fresh from his success against the Board of Works began an ill-advised case against the respected critic John Ruskin. This case bought Tite Street into the public domain and although Whistler won his case, it was a hollow victory, he was given only a farthing damages. The building of the White House  and the court costs had financially ruined Whistler and he was declared bankrupt in 1879. Although he had lost everything, it proved only a temporary setback for the American who returned to Tite Street after a time in Venice and rented a studio at number 33. To improve his financial position, Whistler resolved to paint ‘ all the fashionables ‘.
This was the beginning of the golden age of Tite Street, the Prince of Wales and Lillie Langtry were amongst the first to visit Whistler’s new studio and soon the street was full of the carriages of the wealthy. It was not just the sitters, Whistler became a hero to a younger generation of painters who flocked to his studio, Mortimer Menpes and Walter Sickert were just two of his ‘pupils’. It was not just Whistler whose star was rising , Oscar Wilde was making his reputation with his plays, books and wit.
The book documents this period in detail, it was a time when the two ‘Titans’ dominated an area that had become the most important artistic enclave in London, but for all the success, there were clouds on the horizon which would envelope Tite Street.
The rise of fall of Oscar Wilde is well documented, however the photograph in the book of Whistler’s coffin being carried through a sparsely populated street is an indication that at the end, the artist’s ability to make enemies had surpassed his ability to make friends.

By 1903, two of the greatest ‘Titans’ of Tite Street had died and a number of the supporting cast had bought the curtain down on their careers. It was left to the more stable and popular Sargent to carry the flag for the bohemian enclave.  Following his illustrious compatriot Whistler, he began to paint the ‘fashionables’ and acquired  considerable wealth. When he died in 1925, the golden age of the street was over, other artists took on the baton but none reached the dizzy heights of Whistler, Wilde and Sargent. Augustus John bought some elements of bohemia but when he left in 1950, the world and the street had changed beyond all recognition from its glory days.

Although on the surface, the story of a street would not set the pulse racing, but this was no ordinary street. The author has bought together many of the interactions between the residents that often get lost in single biographies. Oscar Wilde watching Ellen Terry coming away from a Sargent sitting, costumed as Lady Macbeth and writing Tite Street “must always be full of wonderful possibilities” is a fine example of how the residents interaction provided inspiration for their work.

This is a fascinating, entertaining, well researched book with a number of illustrations which highlight some of the incredible pieces of art and writing produced behind the brick facades of Tite Street. Although the three ‘Titans’ dominate the book, the author acknowledges the parts played by a large supporting cast that included other artists, writers, models, mistresses, lovers, sitters, residents, pupils and critics. He also gives a voice to some of the women of Tite Street who tried to challenge the male dominated society, such as painter Anna Lea Merritt and the Welsh sculptor Edith Elizabeth Downing, who supported the suffragettes cause.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like further information or buy a copy of the book, visit the Frances Lincoln website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and the latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here