Ellen Terry, at the Age of Sixteen

Julia Margaret Cameron

Kolkata, India, 1815 - Kalutara, Sri Lanka, 1879
  • Series: 
    Camera Work No. 41, January 1913
  • Date: 
    1864 / Posthumous print, 1913
  • Technique: 
    Photogravure on Japanese paper
  • Dimensions: 
    Image: diameter 15,6 cm / Support: 28 x 19,9 cm
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Julia Margaret Cameron began to take photographs at the age of 48, specialising in portraits: she began with her family and friends and later photographed celebrities she met through her friendship with the poet Lord Tennyson. She also created Pictorialist-style photographic scenes on literary, historical and mythological subjects, which were closely related to the paintings of her Pre-Raphaelite contemporaries. Cameron thus became one of the most important figures of Victorian photography, but recognition did not come until two decades after her death, aided by supporters of photographic Pictorialism such as Alfred Stieglitz, through publications like Camera Work. In the Pictorialist movement, the photographer moved away from realist photography through manipulation of the negatives and prints, in order to create a work that could be considered artistic. Cameron, considered a forerunner of the movement, introduced a number of innovations to her photography, and was heavily criticised for doing so by the academic world of the time. One of her fields of experimentation was that of female portraits and the model in this photograph, Ellen Terry, was a theatre actress specialising in Shakespeare. The picture was taken during the actress’s first honeymoon, at the photographer’s residence on the Isle of Wight. Cameron also called this photograph Sadness, which introduces a biographical element as it is a reference to Ellen Terry’s failed marriage to the painter George Frederick Watts.

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