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Charles Darwin

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Charles Darwin

by Julia Margaret Cameron
albumen print, 1868-1869
13 in. x 10 1/8 in. (330 mm x 256 mm)
Purchased, 1974
Primary Collection

Sitterback to top

  • Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882), Naturalist, geologist and originator of the theory of evolution. Sitter in 35 portraits.

Artistback to top

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

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Photographs, 2018, p. 33 Read entry

    The naturalist, geologist and biologist Charles Darwin (1809-82) made a meticulous survey of life-forms and the conditions that governed their evolution in his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859). He also wrote important works on botany, zoology and geology. In the summer of 1868, Darwin and his family rented a cottage on the Isle of Wight from the Camerons and it was then that he sat for this portrait. Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) took up photography as an amateur in 1863 at the age of forty-eight, when her daughter and son-in-law gave her a sliding-box camera, and she became one of the leading photographers of the nineteenth century. She was a pioneer in her artistic vision, concerned from the beginning of her career with the relationship between art and photography.

  • Cooper, John, Great Britons: The Great Debate, 2002, p. 123 Read entry

    Julia Margaret Cameron took to photography in middle age, having been given some equipment by her family. Through experimenting, she realised the aesthetic potential of variable focus and dramatic lighting. A formidable personality, she persuaded many leading, mid-Victorian male intellectuals to pose for her, celebrating their hirstute gravity in the same spirit that the founders of the National Portrait Gallery chose to record them. Thomas Carlyle, Alfred Lord Tennyson, G. F. Watts and Sir John Herschel were amongst her sitters.

  • Hart-Davis, Adam, Chain Reactions, 2000, p. 121
  • Prodger, Phillip, Victorian Giants, The Birth of Art Photography, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 1 March - 20 May 2018), p. 109
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 165
  • Spalding, Frances, Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision, 2014 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 July 2014 - 26 October 2014), p. 53
  • Truss, Lynn, Tennyson and his Circle, 2015, p. 59
  • Truss, Lynne, Character Sketches: Tennyson and His Circle, 1999, p. 30

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Subject/Themeback to top

Events of 1868back to top

Current affairs

Following the Earl of Derby's resignation, Benjamin Disraeli becomes Prime Minister. However, following a near immediate Liberal election victory, he is replaced as Prime Minister by Gladstone. Gladstone sets out his mission to 'pacify Ireland'.
Separately, the first meeting of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is held in Manchester.
Public executions are abolished, and are moved from outside Newgate gaol to inside the prison.

Art and science

Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone published. Credited with writing the first sensation novel The Woman in White, Collins's claims another first here, as the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Herncastle diamond, is recognised as one of the first detective novels.


An uprising against Spanish rule in Cuba sparks off the Ten Years' War, in which 200,000 lives are lost. Cubans in the eastern provinces unite under wealthy planter Carlos Manuel de Cespedes. Another armed uprising takes place against Spanish rule in the town of Lares in Puerto Rico, known as the 'Grito de Lares'.

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