Image: ‘May Day’ by JM Cameron. V&A Images, Victoria and Albert Museum
19th century photography at the Lady Lever Art Gallery
An age of creativity, experimentation and romance is on display in Victorian Visions 19th century photography at the Lady Lever Art Gallery from 1 December to 16 March 2008.
The exhibition contains around 40 original photographs and offers a fascinating insight into the Victorian view of the world.
The images, from the V&A’s collection, include those by major names such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Lady Hawarden, Roger Fenton, Francis Frith, Robert Howlett and B.B. Turner.
National Museums Liverpool curators have selected images that complement the Lady Lever Art Gallery’s outstanding collection of Victorian art. The photographs provide interesting points of comparison to many of the paintings on display.
Sandra Penketh, head of the Lady Lever Art Gallery, said: ‘Some of these images record the Victorian world and people, others are more reminiscent of paintings. All of the images are incredibly beautiful and powerful. The achievement of these early photographers is quite amazing when you consider that the whole process was still experimental. It’s easy to forget the often arduous and time-consuming nature of photography in the Victorian period when you are faced with the sheer brilliance of these pictures’.
The exhibition is divided into five sections – early works, landscape, documentary, women photographers and portraits.
• Arresting photographs by female artists who did not allow the restrictions of Victorian society to prevent them staking out new perimeters in photography. Julia Margaret Cameron’s works echo the Lady Lever Art Gallery’s Pre-Raphaelite paintings in their romantic subject matter. Lady Hawarden’s intense photographs of female sitters, often her own daughters, make use of natural light, reflections and a careful choice of viewpoint and props.
• B. B Turners’ and Fenton’s arresting landscapes that follow in the tradition of British landscape painting much loved by Lord Lever and represented in his collection.
• A selection of carte de visite (small portrait photographs exchanged between friends and stuck into albums) of various eminent Victorians such as Charles Dickens and Liverpool-born Prime Minister William Gladstone.
• Powerful documentary style images that record the desolation of the Crimea War, the groundbreaking nature of Victorian engineering, and the growth of the tourist industry.
• A delightful selection of photographs of people enjoying the beach at Yarmouth Sands by Paul Martin. A trip to the coast was a popular leisure time for all sections of Victorian society. Martin’s images are a nostalgic reminder of traditional past times.