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Sir Richard England

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Sir Richard England

by Roger Fenton
salt print, 1855 (1856)
7 1/4in. x 6 5/8in. (184 mm x 154 mm)
Purchased, 1983
Photographs Collection
NPG Ax24911

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Artistback to top

  • Roger Fenton (1819-1869), Photographer. Artist associated with 39 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

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This is one of a series Roger Fenton made of participants of the Crimean War, during which an alliance of British, French, Ottoman and Sardinian forces combatted Russian expansion in the Black Sea region. General Sir Richard England was an unlikely subject, since during an earlier campaign in Afghanistan he was accused of taking too many casualties, and temporarily removed from duty. However, he became one of the last generals to leave the Crimean campaign, refusing to return until forced to do so under doctor’s orders, around the time this picture was taken. Given the slow materials of the day, photographers had to harness as much available light as possible to make their pictures. Here, Fenton has placed England in front of a white tent, which served as a makeshift light reflector.

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  • 100 Photographs, 2018, p. 20 Read entry

    In 1855 Roger Fenton (1819-69) was commissioned by the Manchester publisher Thomas Agnew & Sons to document the Crimean War, which pitted British, French, Ottoman and Sardinian allies in a war against Russia, for control of the Black Sea region. Widely regarded as the first war photographer, Fenton travelled under royal patronage and with the assistance of the British government. He produced some 360 photographs, none of which shows actual combat scenes. This was due to the slow photographic process of the time, but also a desire to avoid confronting Victorian sensibilities. Fenton instead produced portraits of those participating in the war, such as Sir Richard England (1793-1883). Sir Richard was an unlikely subject in some regards, since he had been briefly dismissed from the army for taking too many casualties during campaigns in Afghanistan in the 1840s. However, a need for fresh leaders resulted in his being called to action in Crimea, where he served doggedly, and left only when doctors said he could not continue, at around the same time this picture was made. In order to increase illumination on the subject and reduce exposure times, Fenton positioned England in front of the flaps of a white tent, which served as a makeshift light reflector.

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Current affairs

Palmerston becomes Prime Minister, leading a coalition government after Lord Aberdeen loses a vote of confidence over his handling of the Crimean war. Known by the nickname 'Lord Pumicestone' for his abrasive style, Palmerston is the oldest prime minister in history to take up the post for the first time at the age of 71.
Stamp duty on newspapers is abolished, creating the mass media market in the UK as newspapers became more widely and cheaply available.

Art and science

Following a trip through the Holy Land to the Dead Sea, William Holman Hunt begins his symbolically-laden painting The Scapegoat.
John Millais marries Effie Gray, previously John Ruskin's wife, after their marriage was annulled that year.
The social theorist and sociologist Herbert Spencer and philosopher G. H. Lewes, publishes Principles of Pyschology, exploring a physiological basis to psychology.

International

The Fall of Sebastopol in the Crimean war, as Russia retreats, and the exhaustion of the Turkish alliance means the war nears its end. Despite being rebuffed by Florence Nightingale's team of nurses, Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole travels to the Crimea, opening a 'British Hotel' for sick and injured soldiers. She gains significant attention and praise for her nursing work.

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