British photographic history

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History of Photography & The House of Bernadotte

To mark the bicentennial of Karl XIV Johan’s selection as heir to the Swedish throne, Nationalmuseum presents an exhibition of black-and-white portraits of the House of Bernadotte. No other Swedes have been so prolifically portrayed as their royal family.

The evolution of photography from the 1840s to the present day can be traced through portraits of Swedish royalty. When calling cards became popular in the mid-19th century, Karl XV was not slow to allow images of himself to be distributed for propaganda purposes. The featured artists from that era include Mathias Hansen and Bertha Valerius, who were practising at the time when portrait photography was becoming established as an art form and means of expression. Since photography was an international medium whose practitioners moved freely across borders, works by the Parisian photographers Mayer & Pierson and by Ludwig Angerer’s studio in Vienna appear alongside those of Hansen, a Norwegian.

The emphasis of the exhibition is on photography. The National Portrait Collection includes photographs of Bernadottes from the mid-19th century onward. These not only show what members of the Swedish royal family looked like; they also show how the art of portrait photography has evolved over the past 150 years.


Further details of the exhibition can be found here.


Photo: Lennart Nilsson (b. 1922), Gustav V, King of Sweden, 1950. © Lennart Nilsson.

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