Monday, September 26, 2011


The Pre-Raphaelite Lens was published earlier this year in conjunction with a show at the National Gallery in DC. Curators selected a group of Victorian photographs created in the Pre-Raphaelite spirit and then juxtaposed them with a similar number of jewel-bright Pre-Raphaelite paintings.

To my mind at least, the photographs won out decisively in visual interest. And I was especially happy to discover three crisply glowing plates (as seen below) with unfamiliar photographs by Lady Clementina Hawarden (already established some while ago as an official favorite here.)

Art historian Graham Clarke maintains that Lady Hawarden throughout her short career as a photo-pioneer specialized in what he calls, "the depiction of women in a closed and constricted privileged environment." The phrase intrigued me and set me looking for additional examples of her work to see how far I could agree.

She was active only for a few years, from the late 1850s through the early 1860s, recruiting her own children and servants to pose in an upstairs room of her own London house. (The same few props and backgrounds keep reappearing -- the same tall mirror, the same draperies, windows, furniture, even the same wallpaper with its regular rows of six-pointed stars.)