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Julia Margaret Cameron

Julia Margaret Cameron, by George Frederic Watts, 1850-1852 - NPG 5046 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Julia Margaret Cameron

by George Frederic Watts
oil on canvas, 1850-1852
24 in. x 20 in. (610 mm x 508 mm)
Purchased, 1975
Primary Collection
NPG 5046

On display in Room 26 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

  • Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), Pioneer photographer. Sitter in 8 portraits, Artist associated with 114 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), Painter and sculptor. Artist associated with 91 portraits, Sitter in 43 portraits.

Related worksback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 57 Read entry

    The British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) developed a passion for the art of photography at a time when it was especially arduous and challenging. She was forty-eight when her daughter and son-in-law gave her a camera, with which she immediately became enthused, even taking the trouble to turn her coal-house into a dark room. Using standard bulky equipment and hazardous materials, Cameron would become an audacious and pioneering image-maker. Her innovative compositions favour the portrayal of emotion over technical precision. She deemed her portrait of Annie Philpot of 1864 her first triumph, and her imposing close-ups of Thomas Carlyle and Sir William Herschel (both taken in 1867), among other Victorian notables, would draw public attention. But her sitters also included the less famous – family, friends and servants – styled allegorically or in historical or Biblical tableaux. In a letter to Henry Cole, the founding director of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, she wished, she said, to ‘electrify you with delight and startle the world’. In that she succeeded.

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  • Birkett, Dea; Morris, Jan (foreword), Off the Beaten Track: Three Centuries of Women Travellers, 2004 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 7 July to 31 October 2004), p. 112
  • Marsh, Jan, The Pre-Raphaelite Circle, 2013, p. 83 Read entry

    Cameron was the least favoured of seven sisters renowned for their beauty. In this portrait Watts seems to have blended their looks into hers and given her an uncharacteristic repose. 'I aim to paint ideas, not things,' he declared.

  • Marsh, Jan, Insights: The Pre-Raphaelite Circle, 2005, p. 79
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 98

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1850back to top

Current affairs

Cardinal Wiseman, a Catholic priest who had exerted a strong influence on the Oxford movement, is made a Cardinal and leader of the Catholic church in England, thus restoring Roman Catholic hierarchy in England.

Art and science

Death of poet laureate William Wordsworth; his great autobiographical poem The Prelude is published posthumously, famously charting the growth of the poet's mind.
Tennyson's In Memoriam is also published. A poignant record of his grief over the death of his friend Arthur Hallam, the poem also movingly questions the strength of faith in an increasingly scientific age.

International

Up to 50,000 pioneers travel west in wagons on the Oregon trail in the United States, one of the main overland migration routes across the continent. Spanning over half the continent, the trail led 2,170 miles through territories and land which would later become six US states, including Kansas, Wyoming and Oregon, helping the US to implement its goal of Manifest Destiny - building a nation spanning the North American continent.

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