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Soft footsteps – Art and Literature – Julia Margaret Cameron

Moving now to the art of photography and the life of an inspirational British photographer (and shrewd businesswoman) who was given her first camera at the age of 48 as a present. Cameron’s work was strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite painters – Millais, Rossetti, Holman Hunt and Watts is recognised today as being decades ahead of her time.

Julia Margaret Cameron June 11, 1815 – January 26, 1879

Julia Margaret Cameron was a British photographer. Cameron is widely known for her portraits of celebrities of the time and for Arthurian and similar pictures of myths and legends.

Julia Margaret Cameron image source : Wikipedia

Julia Margaret Cameron

Cameron’s photographic career was short (about 12 years) and came late in her life. Her work had a huge impact on the development of modern photography, especially her closely cropped portraits which are still mimicked today.

Born in Calcutta in 1815, educated in Europe and returned to her parents home at the Cape of Good Hope in 1836. In 1838 she met and married Charles Hay Cameron. On her husband’s retirement, in 1848, the couple moved to London and Julia became part of Kensington’s artistic community, including poet Henry Taylor, painter G F Watts, and Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

In 1860 she bought two cottages in Freshwater Bay in the Isle of Wight – they were linked together with a Gothic tower and renamed Dimbola Lodge after the family tea estates in Ceylon. Julia lived at Dimbola Lodge from 1860 until 1875, and the Julia Margaret Cameron Trust was set up with the aim of ensuring the preservation of Dimbola Lodge, and to provide historical information on Julia Margaret Cameron’s life and works. Dimbola Lodge Museum is situated in Terrace Lane, close to Freshwater Bay on the Western end of the Isle of Wight.

In 1863, when Cameron was 48 years old, her daughter gave her a camera as a present, thereby starting her career as a photographer. Within a year, Cameron became a member of the Photographic Societies of London and Scotland. In her photography, Cameron strove to capture beauty. She wrote:

“I longed to arrest all the beauty that came before me and at length the longing has been satisfied.”

Cameron was sometimes obsessive about her new occupation, subjects sitting for countless exposures in the blinding light as she laboriously coated, exposed, and processed each wet plate. The results were, in fact, unconventional in their intimacy and their particular visual habit of creating blur through both long exposures where the subject moved and by leaving the lens intentionally out of focus. This led some of her contemporaries to complain and even ridicule the work, but her friends and family were supportive and she was one of the most prolific and advanced amateurs of her time. Her enthusiasm for her craft meant that her children and others sometimes tired of her endless photographing, but it also means that we are left with some of the best of records of her children and of the many notable figures of the time who visited her.

During her career, Cameron registered each of her photographs with the copyright office and kept detailed records. Her shrewd business sense is one reason that so many of her works survive today. Another reason that many of Cameron’s portraits are significant is because they are often the only existing photograph of historical figures. Many paintings and drawings exist, but, at the time, photography was still a new, challenging medium for someone outside a typical portrait studio.

Ellen Terry Portrait

Actress Ellen Terry, Portrait picture by Julia Margaret Cameron

The bulk of Cameron’s photographs fit into two categories: closely framed portraits (like this early photograph of the English stage actress, Dame Ellen Terry, GBE) and illustrative allegories based on religious and literary works. In the allegorical works in particular, her artistic influence was clearly Pre-Raphaelite, with far-away looks, limp poses and soft lighting.

Cameron’s sister ran the artistic scene at Little Holland House, which gave her many famous subjects for her portraits. Some of her famous subjects include: Charles Darwin, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, John Everett Millais, William Michael Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, Ellen Terry (above) and George Frederic Watts. Most of these distinctive portraits are cropped closely around the subject’s face and are in soft focus. Cameron was often friends with these Victorian celebrities, and tried to capture their personalities in her photos. Her neighbour on the Isle of Wight, Alfred Lord Tennyson often brought friends to see the photographer.

Cameron’s posed photographic illustrations represent the other half of her work. In these illustrations, she frequently photographed historical scenes or literary works, which often took the quality of oil paintings. However, she made no attempt in hiding the backgrounds. Cameron’s friendship with Tennyson led to his asking her to photograph illustrations for his Idylls of the King. These photographs are designed to look like oil paintings from the same time period, including rich details like historical costumes and intricate draperies. Today, these posed works are sometimes dismissed by art critics. Nevertheless, Cameron saw these photographs as art, just like the oil paintings they imitated.

In 1875 the Camerons moved back to Sri Lanka (during the nineteenth century this country was known as Ceylon). Julia continued to practice photography but complained in letters about the difficulties of getting chemicals and pure water to develop and print photographs. Also, in India, she did not have access to Little Holland House’s artistic community. She also did not have a market to distribute her photographs as she had in England. Because of this, Cameron took fewer pictures in India. These pictures were of posed Indian natives, paralleling the posed pictures that Cameron had taken of neighbours in England. Almost none of Cameron’s work from India survives. Cameron died in Ceylon in 1879.

Cameron’s niece Julia Prinsep Stephen née Jackson wrote the biography of Cameron which appeared in the first edition of the Dictionary of National Biography, 1886. Julia Stephen was the mother of Virginia Woolf, who wrote a comic portrayal of the “Freshwater circle” in her only play Freshwater. Woolf edited, with Roger Fry, a collection of Cameron’s photographs, Victorian Photographs of Famous Men and Fair Women, published in 1926. However, it was not until 1948 that her photography became more widely known when Helmut Gernsheim wrote a book on her work (Julia Margaret Cameron: Her Life and Photographic Work, London: The Fountain Press, 1948).

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From translating inspiration and ideas into words and images perhaps we now need to consider the communication and sharing of ideas via technological innovation. In the “Noughties” we have so many ways to communicate with each other. But we mustn’t forget that the 24/7 space that never sleeps “ http://www.” “Web” wasn’t created until 1989 (by the Englishman Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the Belgian Robert Cailliau) and it wasn’t until the early 1990s, that mobile phones became small enough to carry in your pocket,

Women have played a major historical part in providing the technological platforms that are ubiquitous in the 21st century. Their stories will be the subject of the next series of posts.  Women in computing

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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the authors.  Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information contained in this work neither the author, contributors, employees or advisers are able to accept any legal liability for any consequential loss or damage, however caused, arising as a result of any actions taken on the basis of the information contained in this work. All third party brands and trademarks belong to their respective owners.  Copyright : Maggie Baldry

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2011 in Soft Footsteps

 

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Soft footsteps – Art and Literature – Frances Burney

In 1918, Virginia Woolf described our next historical literary pioneer as the Mother of English Fiction.

For fear of bringing disgrace to her family her early works were written in secret and she was reluctant to reveal her identity. Yet, her satirical novels and plays about eighteenth-century society were thought to be the literary precursor to prominent authors who came after her, including Jane Austen and William Makepeace Thackeray.

Frances Burney

13 June, 1752 – 6 January, 1840

Frances Burney was born in King’s Lynn, England.

Frances Burney image source wikipedia

Frances Burney

She was also known as Fanny Burney and after marriage as Madame d’Arblay. Her father was the musical historian Dr. Charles Burney and her mother was Mrs. Esther Sleepe Burney.

Frances Burney was a novelist, diarist, and playwright. In total, she wrote four novels, eight plays, one biography, and twenty volumes of journals and letters.

The third of six children, she was self-educated, and began writing what she called her “scribblings” at the age of ten.

In 1778, at the age of 26, she published her first novel Evelina anonymously. When its authorship was revealed, it brought her almost immediate fame, due to its unique narrative and comic strengths. She followed with Cecilia in 1782, Camilla in 1796, and The Wanderer in 1814.

All of Burney’s novels explore the lives of English aristocrats, and satirize their social pretensions and personal foibles, with an eye to larger questions such as the politics of female identity.

Frances Burney’s early career was deeply affected by her relationship with her father, and by the critical attentions of their family friend Samuel Crisp. Both men encouraged her writing, but also employed their influence in a critical fashion, dissuading her from publishing or performing her dramatic comedies because they felt that to work in the genre was inappropriate for a lady.

With one exception, Burney never succeeded in having her plays performed, largely due to objections from her father. The exception was Edwy and Elgiva, which unfortunately was not well received by the public and closed after the first night’s performance.

Many feminist critics view her as an author whose natural talent for satire was stifled by the social pressures exerted on female authors of the age. In spite of setbacks however, Burney persisted in writing. When her comedies received criticism, she returned to novel writing, and later tried her hand at tragedies. She supported both herself and her family with the proceeds of her later novels Camilla and The Wanderer.

While some early historians derided the “feminine sensibility” of her writing, her fiction is now widely acknowledged for its critical wit and for its deliberate exploration of the lives of women.

She married in 1793 at forty-two, to a French exile, General Alexandre D’Arblay. Their only son, Alexander, was born in 1794. After a lengthy writing career, and travels that took her to France for over ten years, she settled in Bath, England, where she died on 6 January 1840.

Although her novels were hugely popular during her lifetime, following her death Burney’s reputation as a writer suffered at the hands of biographers and critics who felt that the extensive diaries, published posthumously in 1841, offered a more interesting and accurate portrait of eighteenth century life. Today, however, critics are returning to her novels and plays with a renewed interest in her perspective on the social lives and struggles of women in a predominantly male-oriented culture. Scholars continue to value Burney’s diaries as well, for their candid depictions of eighteenth-century English society.

Throughout her career as a writer, her wit and talent for satirical caricatures were widely acknowledged: literary figures such as Dr. Samuel Johnson, Edmund Burke, Hester Thrale, and David Garrick were among her admirers. Her early novels were read and enjoyed by Jane Austen, whose own title Pride and Prejudice derives from the final pages of Cecilia. William Makepeace Thackeray is reported to have drawn on the first person account of the Battle of Waterloo, recorded in her diaries, while writing Vanity Fair.

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Julia Margaret Cameron image source : Wikipedia

Julia Margaret Cameron

Moving now to the art of photography and the life of an inspirational British photographer (and shrewd businesswoman) who was given her first camera at the age of 48 as a present. Cameron whose work was strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite painters – Millais, Rossetti, Holman Hunt and Watts is recognised today as being decades ahead of her time.

Legal bit
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the authors.  Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information contained in this work neither the author, contributors, employees or advisers are able to accept any legal liability for any consequential loss or damage, however caused, arising as a result of any actions taken on the basis of the information contained in this work. All third party brands and trademarks belong to their respective owners.  Copyright : Maggie Baldry

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2011 in Soft Footsteps

 

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Soft footsteps – history – art and literature – Julian of Norwich

History

We follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before us. We celebrate their success and learn from their mistakes (before making our own

Julia Margaret Cameron image source : Wikipedia

Julia Margaret Cameron

as we take the next innovative step).

Women have been pioneers throughout history. New ideas and “content” have been created. Existing concepts have been challenged and new inspirations have been found. The following 7 sections covering Art & Literature, Computing Technology, Education, Entertainment, Politics, Science and Society provides a taste of the work women have undertaken to try to make the world a better place for everyone. Their work and passion has laid foundations that all of us (men, women and children) can build on.

The list is neither exhaustive nor complete and is provided purely to take a brief glimpse at the historical achievements of women and as a reference point for those interested in future research in these subjects.

Please note the majority of historical research has been extracted from Wikipedia. Please click on the links for further information.

Soft footsteps – Art & Literature – Julian of Norwich

Women writers and artists have added a rich texture to the literature and art we all appreciate and enjoy today. Via their chosen expressive mediums, these women have championed spiritual and social causes and created new ways of working with the media available at that point in time (whether that is the use of Middle English to express your faith, satirical comedy or the development of modern photography). Their work has translated ideas into a reality that we can all still share, learn from and be inspired by.

Circa 1342 – 1416

Julian of Norwich image source wikipedia

Julian of Norwich

The first woman writer to be published in the English Language and the creator of one of the most remarkable documents of medieval religious experience.

The Revelations of Divine Love (which also bears the title A Revelation of Love — in Sixteen Shewings) is a book of Christian mystical devotions written by Julian of Norwich.

It is unknown if Julian was born in Norwich, or her parental origin, though it is thought she may have come from a prosperous family. She can be placed in Norwich from 1394 when a will refers to her as “Julian anchorite”. Her actual name is even unknown. She is also referred to as Juliana of Norwich, Dame Julian of Norwich, Lady Julian of Norwich and Mother Julian of Norwich.

The name “Julian” is taken from Saint Julian’s church, where she lived (in a small hut next to the church) as an anchoress. An anchoress is a woman who had entered into an enclosed, solitary life in order to achieve spiritual perfection.

At the age of thirty, Julian became seriously ill. As she prayed and prepared for death, she received a series of sixteen visions on the Passion of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

Saved from the brink of death, Julian of Norwich dedicated her life to solitary prayer and the contemplation of the visions she had received. Soon after the event, she wrote a short account of her visions. Twenty or thirty years after her illness, near the end of the fourteenth century, she expanded her original short account of the visions and her understanding of them.

Latin was the language of religion in her day and the innovative step that Julian of Norwich took was to write about her visions in a straightforward Middle English, because she had no other medium in which to express herself. It was the first published book in the English language to be written by a woman. By writing in a more widely understood language Julian also made her experiences more widely available to other like minded Christians.

During her lifetime, she became known as a counsellor, whose advice combined common sense with spiritual insight. Since her death, many more have found help in her writings. The Revelations of Divine Love are about a personal spiritual experience in the fourteenth-century. This work is generally considered one of the most remarkable documents of medieval religious experience. A manuscript copy is available at the British Museum.

The relevance of this document in the 21st century can only really be understood if we look at the times that Julian lived in, Europe was ravaged by the plague, the clock was invented, as was the birth of the modern university, parliament and the banking system. Julian’s life time was a period of great change and great challenges, which some might say reflect the challenges we face today. Her work spoke of the joy, love and optimism she had found through her personal religious beliefs. A religion of compassion, rather than law and duty.

From Wikipedia

“As part of her differing view of God as compassionate and loving, she [Julian of Norwich] wrote of the trinity in domestic terms and compares Jesus to a mother who is wise, loving, and merciful.”

Similarly, she connects God with motherhood in terms of:

  1. the foundation of our nature’s creation“,

  2. the taking of our nature, where the motherhood of grace begins” and

  3. “the motherhood at work” and speaks metaphorically of Jesus in connection with conception, nursing, labour, and upbringing.


She, like many other great mystics, used female language for God as well as the more traditional male pronouns.

Her great saying, “…All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well“, reflects this theology.”

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Frances Burney image source wikipedia

Frances Burney

In the next post we will be looking at the story of our next historical literary pioneer, who, in 1918, Virginia Woolf described as the Mother of English Fiction.

For fear of bringing disgrace to her family her early works were written in secret and she was reluctant to reveal her identity. Yet, her satirical novels and plays about eighteenth-century society were thought to be the literary precursor to prominent authors who came after her, including Jane Austen and William Makepeace Thackeray. Hope you will be looking forward to getting to know a little about Frances Burney

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the authors.  Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information contained in this work neither the author, contributors, employees or advisers are able to accept any legal liability for any consequential loss or damage, however caused, arising as a result of any actions taken on the basis of the information contained in this work. All third party brands and trademarks belong to their respective owners.  Copyright : Maggie Baldry

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2011 in Soft Footsteps

 

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