The four main players are: Julia Margaret Cameron, Lewis Carroll, Lady Clementine Hawarden and Swedish-born Oscar Rejlander. The exhibition opens with a succinct but engaging introduction to the unlikely foursome. From different walks of life and from different parts of the country, the lives of these four photographers would become inextricably linked. Regularly exchanging ideas about portraiture and the role of photography, together, they would forge a new identity for an as of yet unrecognised art form.
Photographic Study (Clementina and Isabella Grace Maude) by Clementina Hawarden
Pivotal to their success was their radical choice of subject matter and innovative, boundary-pushing stylistic techniques. Rather surprisingly, children were among their most cherished sitters. In the Victorian imagination, children represented innocence, they were 'blank slates' to be moulded, and for photographers they represented the ultimate challenge. Photographing fidgety children at a time when shutter speeds were slow took the utmost skill and patience.
Taking centre stage in this exhibition are Lewis Carroll’s portraits of Alice Liddell – the real life model for his now mega-famous Alice in Wonderland – as a child. But the children photographed by Hawarden, Cameron and Rejlander are just as exquisite. Rejlander's The Little Sisters is quite remarkable for its tenderness and sensibility. Sitting side by side, two young girls cling on to one another, their hands in prayer: it's a beautiful portrait of sisterly affection.
Elsewhere, we see Charles Darwin, Lady Clementine's daughters, artful nudes, and photographs inspired by Renaissance paintings. It's a well-thought out display with enough variety to keep interest peaked. But, of course, it's The Duchess of Cambridge who adds the required sprinkling of star power to make the exhibition really intriguing.
Inspired by a number of the Victorian images of children in the Royal Collection, Kate, an enthusiastic, amateur photographer, has chosen a selection of photographs for the Patron's Trail. Kate has also written a foreward to the exhibition catalogue and a number of accompanying exhibition labels. Following in the footsteps of art patrons Victoria & Albert, Kate has said she is 'delighted to support Victorian Giants'.
Breathing fresh life into an old art, this intimate exhibition is just delightful.
|What||Review: Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography, National Portrait Gallery|
|Where||National Portrait Gallery, St Martin's Place, London, WC2H 0HE | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
01 Mar 18 – 20 May 18, Open Thursdays and Fridays until 9pm
|Website||Please click here for more information|