Julia Margaret Cameron: Mary Hillier


Julia Margaret Cameron – Henry Herschel Hay Cameron: Mary Hillier 1873 This lovely, portrait of Mary Hillier with her hair down and flowing out in wavelets across her shoulder, is one of my favourite Cameron’s, though it appears to be signed by Henry Herschel Hay Cameron, Julia’s son who became a renowned portrait photographer (like his mother) in the 1880s-1911). Perhaps this is HHH practising with his mother’s camera at Dimbola, and taking the opportunity to make this unusual profile, replete with the flowing pre-Raphaelite hair that Dante Gabriel Rossetti had made famous in the previous decade.

Mary Hillier (1847-1936). Colin Ford remarks: Mary Hillier was photographed by Mrs Cameron as the Virgin Mary more times than any other model. As a result, at least two writers (Mary Watts and Wilfred Ward) called her ‘Madonna Mary’, though this name may have been used in Mrs Cameron’s circle rather than her (Mary Hillier’s) own, since no one in Freshwater or her family seems to recall it…She was born in Lea Cottage, Pound Green, Freshwater, on 19th November 1847, the daughter of John Hillier a local cordwainer (shoemaker) and his wife Martha. Her brother was a groom at Tennyson’s house, Farringford, her sister Sophie was a maid there. Mary went to work as Mrs Cameron’s personal maid in 1861, soon after the Cameron’s came to Dimbola Lodge, and she stayed for 13 years.” from Colin Ford: The Cameron Collection, Van Nostrand Reinhold + National Portrait Gallery 1975.

So Mary Hillier was at Dimbola for almost the  whole span of Julia’s intense love affair with photography.


Julia Margaret Cameron: Mary Hillier (nd). This is another favourite of mine. It only came to light recently (2013) with the rediscovery of another Album by Cameron (the Signor Album). Here is further evidence of Julia’s pictorialist credentials, the off-the-shoulder décolletage, the hair rapidly pinned up, the draped woollen shawl, the evidence of clumsy printing adding to the sketchy nature of the image, the introspective pose – all combine to produce an image more at home in the early 20th century than in the mid-19th. Thanks to Kimberly Eve at http://kimberlyevemusings.blogspot.co.uk for the image.

2 thoughts on “Julia Margaret Cameron: Mary Hillier

  1. this woman is incredibly beautiful. Great photograph here, capturing the true feminine beauty that is hers. No dancers, no strippers or swimsuit models, just a beautiful woman.

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