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Semiotics of the Kitchen (excerpt), by Martha Rosler

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Mr. and Miss Constable

Oscar Gustav Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813–1875)

Date:
1866
Medium:
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Dimensions:
Image: 16.8 x 22.1 cm (6 5/8 x 8 11/16 in.) Mount: 21.2 x 28.9 cm (8 3/8 x 11 3/8 in.)
Classification:
Photographs
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005
Accession Number:
2005.100.24
  • Description

    Oscar Gustav Rejlander took up the camera in 1853 because he could not support himself from the proceeds of his portrait paintings. Although he photographed nudes, expressive heads, and other subjects for painters to copy, he pursued his own art as well. To that end he concocted elaborate genre scenes and moral allegories that made him famous (and when tastes shifted, infamous), but he also made photographic portraits that have yet to go out of style.
    Behind his London house Rejlander built an unusual studio with five oddly shaped, judiciously placed windows that gave him virtual command of his illumination. Like a film director Rejlander posed his sitters informally and obliquely in the filtered light, sparing them the glare and self-conscious interrogation of direct camera confrontation. The freshness and vivacity he thus achieved are evident in this portrait of a brother and sister, gazing as on their future in a glowing hearth. Clasped in affectionate embrace, the well-dressed Constable children had clearly attended that "school of sympathy, tenderness, and loving forgetfulness of self" which was the ideal Victorian family.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed and inscribed in ink on mount, recto BL: "O.G. Rejlander"; BR: "Mr. & Miss Constable 1866"

  • Provenance

    [Janet Lehr, New York, by 1989]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, February 29, 1989

283096

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