British photographic history

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Exhibition: Roger Fenton & Julia Margaret Cameron: Early British Photographs from the Royal Collection

Photographs by two of Britain’s most accomplished photographers of the nineteenth century: Roger Fenton (1819-69) and Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79) are on display at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter, from 15 December to 1 April 2012. Some were commissioned by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, others purchased directly from the photographer.  Together they demonstrate the royal couple’s involvement in the early photographic world.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were enthusiastic patrons of photography.  Between 1842, when the first photograph was taken of a member of the royal family and 1861 when Prince Albert died, the couple amassed a collection of works by the leading photographers of the day.  After Prince Albert’s death, Queen Victoria continued collecting.  By the time of her death in 1901 the collection was estimated at 20,000 photographs.

Victoria and Albert’s patronage helped foster this new art form.  They attended exhibitions, became patrons of the newly established Photographic Society of London, commissioned portraits and purchased the work of British photographers.  Queen Victoria preferred portraits, while Prince Albert acquired topographical views and fine art photographs. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a book by Sophie Gordon Roger Fenton & Julia Margaret Cameron: Early British Photographs from the Royal Collection.

The photographs have been generously lent by HM The Queen from the Royal Collection.


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