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Lewis Carroll

1 of 65 portraits on display in Room 22 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery

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Lewis Carroll

by Lewis Carroll
albumen carte-de-visite, circa 1857
3 5/8 in. x 2 1/4 in. (91 mm x 57 mm)
Bequeathed by G. Edward Pine, 1984
Primary Collection
NPG P237

On display in Room 22 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery

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  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 39 Read entry

    The shy author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there (1871) was a mathematics don at Christ Church, Oxford. Fascinated by all forms of gadgetry, he was from about 1856 an enthusiastic amateur photographer. Although always interested in the techniques, he saw photo¬graphy primarily as a means of expressing himself artistically, and often signed his prints 'from the Artist'. Of portrait photography he wrote in 1860:

    a well-arranged light is of paramount importance … as without it all softness of feature is hopeless … In single portraits the chief difficulty to be overcome is the natural placing of the hands; within the narrow limits allowed by the focussing power of the lens there are not many attitudes into which they naturally fall, while, if the artist attempts the arrangement himself he generally produces the effect of the proverbial bashful young man in society who finds for the first time that his hands are an encumbrance, and cannot remember what he is in the habit of doing with them in private life.

    This photograph is perhaps a self-portrait, set up by Carroll, with a friend or assistant on hand to take off the lens cap. In it he has taken particular care with 'the natural placing of the hands'. In addition to a number of individual prints, the Gallery also owns an important album of twenty-eight photographs by Carroll of his friends and contemporaries at Oxford.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 107

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Events of 1857back to top

Current affairs

Palmerston passes the Matrimonial Causes Act in the face of parliamentary opposition. The act establishes divorce courts, although women, unlike men, are not allowed to sue for divorce on the grounds of adultery.
The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition is held, a follow-up to the Great Exhibition of 1851, although highlighting Britain's private art collections rather than industry and technology. More than 1.3 million people visit the event.

Art and science

Elizabeth Gaskell publishes The Life of Charlotte Brontë, a year after the author's death. The controversial biography consolidates the myth of the Brontë sisters as isolated geniuses living in remote Yorkshire.
Illustrator George Scharf becomes the first Secretary of the National Portrait Gallery, overseeing the collection's growth and its several moves around London before a permanent home is established in 1896, the year after Scharf's death.


The Indian Revolt was a significant rebellion against the rule of the East Indian Company and a culmination of decades of discontent about British rule. After a year of horrific violence on both sides, the revolt was suppressed. It led to a more involved role by the British government in India, taking over responsibility from the East India Company.

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