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EXCLUSIVE: Rejlander album of 70 prints to be offered at auction

Morphets of Harrogate is offering at an album of seventy albumen prints by Oscar Gustav Rejlander from the former estate of Surgeon Commander Herbert Ackland Browning RN on 11 September. The album is estimated at a modest £7000-10,000 and the complete album is to be re-created as a page turner pdf book on the Morphets website shortly, see:  www.morphets.co.uk

Details of the album are below: 

REJLANDER (OSCAR), AN ALBUM OF SEVENTY ALBUMEN PRINTS, CIRCA 1865-66

A rare and interesting folio of seventy portrait and figurative photographs by this pioneer, the albumen prints mounted on gilt-edged card leaves in a single volume with gilt and tooled black morocco bindings, the sitters including Rejlander himself, Mary Rejlander (nee Bull), Sir Henry Taylor, Hallam Tennyson (son of Lord Alfred Tennyson), John and Minnie Constable, the youngest of Lord Hawarden's children, possibly including Elphinstone 'Eppy' Maud and other unidentified subjects, album 30cm x 25cm, prints varying in size from 12cm oval up to 21cm x 15cm, some with titles or annotations in pencil. 

Provenance: This album was part of the estate of Surgeon Commander Herbert Ackland Browning RN and thence by descent to the vendor.  Commander Browning served throughout the First World War, never married and died at the family home in Dawlish in 1955.  Herbert's father, Captain George Browning RN, was a naval hydrographer and married Elizabeth (nee) Kendal, daughter of Dr Marsters Kendal of Kings Lynne, honorary surgeon to the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, at Sandringham.  It is possible that the album belonged to him and was thus lent to the Prince of Wales and others as annotations indicate. 

Footnote: Oscar Gustav Rejlander (1813-1875), known as the Father of Art Photography, was born in Sweden and studied art in Rome, settling in England in the 1840s.  He lived in Lincoln and later Wolverhampton, working as an artist and portrait miniaturist.  He took an active interest in photography, seeing its potential for assisting artists and in 1853 attended lessons in the London studio of Nicholas Henneman.  This inspired him to develop his own techniques experimenting with portraiture although it is his pioneering work in photo-montage, combining several negatives to form one image, that brought him to wider renown.   His best known work The Two Ways of Life comprised thirty-two negatives and took six weeks to produce.  Following its exhibition in Manchester in 1857 a copy was ordered by Queen Victoria for Prince Albert.  Rejlander became a member of the Royal Photographic Society, regularly lecturing and publishing on the subject and in 1862 he moved to London where he built a photographic studio designed to make the best use of natural light for his subjects.  During his work he came into contact with Julia Margaret Cameron, Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), Lady Clementina (Maud) Hawarden and Charles Darwin.  In the early 1870s he worked with Darwin on illustrations for his treatise on The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

Although Rejlander sold volumes of his photography through book shops and art dealers it is unknown if the album in this lot was obtained thus by Captain Browning.  One pencil annotation suggests it may have been bought directly from the photographer as it reads 'Rejlander had refused to sell this copy (the only one obtained from the negative taken) at any price: but the offer of £2.2.0 for the Swedish poor was too much for his nerves and I obtained it DEO GRATIAS'.

A further annotation inside the front cover reads 'This album has the honour of being submitted in 1866 to HRH The Prince of Wales by Colonel Teesdale (3 weeks), in 1870 at the request of Cardinal Antorelli to HH Pope Pius IXth by Monsignor Pacca (1 week), into 1871 to Her Majesty by Lady Elgin (several weeks)'.  

Some of the prints herein are well known examples also held in the collections of the Royal Photographic Society, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

For more information contact: Fran Hazlewood on 01423 530030 or email enquiries@morphets.co.uk.

Images: courtesy Morphets of Harrogate

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