Oscar Gustav Rejlander: pioneer pictorialist

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Oscar Gustave Rejlander: Julia Jackson 1865. While Rejlander was helping Julia with her photographic technique (1863-64), he was already a fellow traveller at least of the nascent Pictorialists (Henry Peach Robinson was to write his Pictorial Effect in Photography two years later (in 1867), and Rejlander was already making sublime portraits like this one of Jula Jackson – Julia’s favourite neice and her namesake. Julia Margaret was to make several portraits of Julia Jackson (later Julia Stephen, mother of Virginia Woolf). I know this print has aged, with blotches somewhat accentuating the ‘pictorialist’ style of the print, but its modernity – the iconic A-frame pose against a plain backdrop, with soft focus lower print – still strikes me.

 

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Julia Margaret Cameron: My Neice Julia 1867. Colin Ford quotes from Virginia Woolf’s book on her aunt, published by her Hogarth Press in 1926: Victorian Photographs of Famous Men and Fair Women, by Julia Margaret Cameron “A little theatre was built where the young people acted. On fine nights they traipsed up to the Tennysons and danced; if it were stormy, and Mrs Cameron preferred the storm to the calm, she paced the beach and sent for Tennyson to come and pace by her side. The colour of the clothes she wore, the glitter and hospitality of the household she ruled, reminded visitors of the East. But if there was an element of ‘feudal familiarity’, there was also a sense of ‘feudal discipline’. Mrs Cameron was extremely outspoken. She could be highly despotic. ‘If you ever fall into temptation, she said to a cousin, ‘down on your knees and think of Aunt Julia’. She was caustic and candid of tongue.”

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Oscar Gustav Rejlander: Portrait of a Young Girl c1860. This image, like Rejlander’s Mr and Miss Constable has the kind of freshness of vision (expressed in the unconventional pose, the sense of an arrested action rather than a formal pose) that has more in common with the spontaneous snap-shot than 19th century conventional portraiture. Many of Julia’s works have this kind of spontaneity (look at her The South West Wind portrait of Ellen Terry).

 

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