Posts Tagged ‘Julia Margaret Cameron’

Julia Margaret Cameron- Whisper of the Muse-Portrait of GF WattsI came across this photo from Julia Margaret Cameron, a Victorian era  British photographer whose work I find tremendously interesting and forward leaning.  I have featured her work here before, with photos titled Sadness and Iago.  This photo from 1865 is titled Whisper of the Muse/Portrait of GF Watts  once again shows off the painterly eye that marks Cameron’s work as she portrays the renowned painter of the time amid two young girls.

I liked the image and it piqued my interest as to GF Watts‘ work.  I had heard the name but couldn’t recall his work so I decided to give a quick look.  An interesting guy, one who fell from favor at one point after his death and has found renewed interest.  Some of his work is Pre-Raphaelite in its appearance, very appealing and beautiful but falling into the genre to the point it became hard to distinguish it from other painters working in the same time.

But there was a piece that really captured my eye.  Titled After the Deluge (The Forty-First Day) it is an almost abstract depiction of the world after the biblical flood, the sun dominating in bursts of warm tones .  It was such an anomalous and powerful piece, more Van Gogh and modern in feel than Pre-raphaelite.  It evokes Mark Rothko, to bring it even further into the future. I found it just amazing.  It was on display at the National Galleries of Scotland last year in an exhibit titled Van Gogh to Kandinsky/ Symbolist Landscape in Europe 1880-1910.  This is how they described Watts’ work:

George Frederic Watts took his role as an artist to a high calling, stating: ‘I paint ideas, not things’. For him, landscape provided elements which he could transform to project profound meaning via natural grandeur, as in his large, imposing painting After the Deluge: The Forty-First Day. This simple image – a vast sun hanging over an expanse of calm, unbroken water – is far from a mere sunset; it evokes the cosmic energy of a star.

I love the quote– I paint ideas, not things.  Something to hold to.  Here’s the painting in question:


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Cameron_Julia_Margaret_Iago_Study_from_an_ItalianA few months ago, I posted one of my favorite photos, Sadness, from the  British Victorian era photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.  I was struck by the contemporary feel and presence of the photo taken of the actress Ellen Terry in 1864.  It had a naturalness that was unlike much of the photography that we think of from that era, making me feel that it could be a photo from any time.

I recently came across another of Cameron’s photos that hit me in very much the same way.  It is an 1867 study of a young Italian man,  Angelo Colarossi, portraying Iago, the betrayer of Shakespeare’s Othello.  With downcast eyes, his unshaven face fills the frame and you don’t see any props to give away his character.  It may be betrayal that fills his face but for me it is more along the lines of Judas than Iago.  There seems to be remorse and even a bit of Christlike genuflection in his downward gaze.

Like Cameron’s Sadness, this piece has a freshness that makes it feel out of time.   It is a document of emotion that crosses time.  Cameron had a real knack for capturing the universal and eternal in her work, when all others were capturing stiff, glassy-eyed portraits in her own time.  For me, I use Cameron’s work as reminder of the quality that I want in my own work, that universal and timeless appeal, even though our methods and materials and eras are so different.

Just a great photo.

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