Julia Margaret Cameron (British (born India), Calcutta 1815–1879 Kalutara, Ceylon)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 31.8 x 24.9 cm (12 1/2 x 9 13/16 in.)
Mount: 39.9 x 32.9 cm (15 11/16 x 12 15/16 in.), corners clipped
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Robert Rosenkranz Gift, 2005
Not on view
Sir John Herschel (1792–1871) was Victorian England’s preeminent scientist, astronomer, and mathematician, considered the equal of Sir Isaac Newton. Cameron met him in 1836 in Capetown, South Africa, where she was recuperating from illness and he was charting the stars of the southern hemisphere and recording the native flora. Just a few years later Herschel wrote to her in Calcutta of Henry Talbot’s invention of photography and sent her the first photographs she had ever seen—scientific discoveries that were “water to the parched lips of the starved,” she recalled. Of her 1867 portraits of Herschel, she wrote: “From my earliest girlhood I had loved and honoured him, and it was after a friendship of 31 years’ duration that the high task of giving his portrait to the nation was allotted to me,” sounding a bit as though she were working on a divine commission rather than on a personal, spiritual, artistic quest—with, it must be said, some incidental hope of financial profit. Of the four exposures Cameron made in April 1867, Herschel preferred this one, which portrayed him, he thought, as an “old Paterfamilias.”
Inscription: Signed and inscribed in Cameron's hand in ink on mount, below image BL to BR: "From life Taken at his own residence, Collingwood, April 1867. Julia Margaret Cameron"; signed in Herschel's hand in pencil on mount, recto BC: "J.F.W. Herschel"
[Gwenneth Isobel Jones]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, July, 1977
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "From the Gilman Collection: Photographs Preserved in Ink," November 15, 1984–February 26, 1985.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Julia Margaret Cameron: Victorian Photographer," March 17, 1998–June 7, 1998.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Framing a Century: Master Photographers, 1840–1940," June 3, 2008–September 1, 2008.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Julia Margaret Cameron," August 19, 2013–January 5, 2014.
Gernsheim, Helmut. The History of Photography from the Camera Obscura to the Beginning of the Modern Era. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969. no. 49.
Apraxine, Pierre. Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company. Reeds Springs, Mo.: White Oak Press, 1985. no. 73.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. pl.32.