A century and a half ago, in the Victorian Era, women did not have the same opportunities for professional art training; they were expected to behave in a conventional and proper manner. Some women who are from relatively well-off families were expected to show some artistic skills at an amateur level as part of their accomplishments but it wasn’t considered proper for them to pursue something more seriously. Their responsibilities were to their home and family. However some women in this era overcame these social obstacles with their passion for art, their determinations and their supportive family & friends. Julia Margaret Cameron was one of them.
One of the greatest portraitists in the history of photography, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879) blended an unorthodox technique, a deeply spiritual sensibility, and a Pre-Raphaelite–inflected aesthetic to create a gallery of vivid portraits and a mirror of the Victorian soul.
When she received her first camera in December 1863 as a Christmas gift from her daughter and son-in-law, Cameron was forty-eight, a mother of six, and a deeply religious, well-read, somewhat eccentric friend of many notable Victorian artists, poets, and thinkers. “From the first moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour,” she wrote, “and it has become to me as a living thing, with voice and memory and creative vigour.”
‘What is focus and who has the right to say what focus is the legitimate focus?’
Condemned by some contemporaries for sloppy craftsmanship, she purposely avoided the perfect resolution and minute detail that glass negatives permitted, opting instead for carefully directed light, soft focus, and long exposures that allowed the sitters’ slight movement to register in her pictures, instilling them with an uncommon sense of breath and life.
The exhibition in The Metropolitan Museum until January 5, 2014 features masterpieces from each of Cameron’s three major bodies of work: portraits of men “great thro’ genius,” including painter G. F. Watts, poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, scientist Sir John Herschel, and philosopher and historian Thomas Carlyle; women “great thro’ love,” including relatives, neighbors, and household staff, often titled as literary, historical, or biblical subjects; and staged groupings such as her illustrations for Tennyson’s Idylls of the King or her Annunciation in the style of Perugino.
You can see more details about the exhibition on The Metropolitan Museum homepage ;)
Since Christmas is coming, I am wondering about who will be the next artist with an affectionate Christmas present.