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Bea Martin; Rita Martin; Lallie Charles

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Bea Martin; Rita Martin; Lallie Charles

by Lallie Charles
whole-plate glass negative, circa 1899
Given by Lallie Charles Cowell (née Martin), 1994
Photographs Collection
NPG x68948

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  • Pepper, Terence, High Society: Photographs 1897-1914, 1998 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 30 January to 21 June 1998), p. 82 Read entry

    Inspired by the success of Alice Hughes, Lallie Charles (1869-1919) opened her first photographic studio in 1896, at the Nook in Regent’s Park, London. She is shown here with her sisters, Rita Martin (1875-1958) and Beaulah ‘Bea’ Martin. Rita subsequently opened her own studio at 74 Baker Street. The two sisters became the most commercially successful women portraitists of the first decade of the 1900s.

  • Rideal, Liz, Mirror Mirror: Self-portraits by Women Artists, 2001 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 12 September 2001 to 20 January 2002), p. 47 Read entry

    This photograph, assumed to have been taken by Lallie Charles (seen far right) is set in her studio 'The Nook' at 1 Titchfield Road, Regent's Park, London. It was certainly art-directed by Lallie. As her sister Rita (centre) was also a photographer we can assume that her image, too, is a self-conscious one, to be regarded as a type of self-portrait - and viewed in the same way as we view the mother-and-daughter image of Eveleen Myers. Rita opened her own studio at 74 Baker Street in 1906 and the two sisters became the most commercially successful women portrait photographers of the first decade of the twentieth century.

    The work is bursting with Victorian decorative detail. Varying patterns jostle with each other; a Chinese screen, vase and tea-set rub shoulders with oriental props and rugs, giving the studio a haphazard, bohemian air which contrasts with the corseted sisters who pose proudly amongst the two palms. Lallie (aided by her sisters) worked as a professional from 1897, and moved in 1907 from The Nook to 39a Curzon Street, Mayfair, where she became the foremost female portrait photographer of her day. The later studio was luxurious: Madame Yevonde, her assistant, reminisced 'The curtains were of rose-coloured silk, the chairs were upholstered in pink velvet and thick-piled carpet covered the floor.' Yevonde, who went on to become a noted photographer herself, was later to echo Lallie Charles's view that women made better photographers than men; Charles's feelings on this had been published in an article for Every Woman's Encyclopaedia (1912). Lallie's speciality was the 'pouter pigeon' look, in which her late Edwardian sitters were portrayed as beautiful, elegant and seemingly innocent, forever girlish, passive and pink.

    Lallie married twice, her first husband introducing specific 'packaging' for her photographs - they were printed on pale-pink-toned papers, mounted in ivory-white folders embellished with grey lettering. Lallie Charles Martin, the sisters' niece, presented their surviving prints and negatives to the National Portrait Gallery in 1994.

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Current affairs

George Nathaniel Curzon, Lord Curzon, is appointed Viceroy of India, pursuing a mixed policy of forceful control and conciliation. Curzon's inquiries into Indian administration result in legislation in areas including education, irrigation, and policing. The Board of Education is created to co-ordinate the work of higher grade elementary schools, county technical schools and endowed grammar schools, also setting up a register of teachers.

Art and science

The Italian Guglielmo Marconi transmits the first wireless telegraph, between France and England across the English Channel, a distance of 32 miles. Marconi's production of waves over long distances lays the foundations for the development of the radio. Later this year, Marconi demonstrates his invention in America, at the Cup yacht race, and for the American navy.

International

Outbreak of the second Boer war, fought between the British Empire and the two independent Boer Republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal. Despite a disastrous start, Britain quickly won the war, although guerilla warfare continued until 1902, leading to the introduction of concentration camps by British commander Lord Kitchener, a measure which contributes to the British public's growing disillusionment with the campaign.

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