British photographic history

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Lecture: Ruskin daguerreotypes with the Jacobsons

The Bodleian Library is delighted presenting a lecture by Ken Jacobson marking the appearance of a book published by Bernard Quaritch and written by Ken and Jenny Jacobson: Carrying Off the Palaces: John Ruskin’s Lost Daguerreotypes.

At a small country auction in 2006, the authors discovered one lightly regarded lot, a distressed mahogany box crammed with long-lost early photographs. They were daguerreotypes and all are now confirmed as once belonging to John Ruskin, the great nineteenth-century art critic, writer, artist and social reformer. Moreover, the box turned out to contain the largest collection of daguerreotypes of Venice in the world and probably the earliest surviving photographs of the Alps.

Ruskin's daguerreotypes aided the creation and influenced the style of his watercolours and in some instances reflected his emotional state of mind. Despite his sometimes vehemently negative sentiments regarding the camera, Ruskin ambivalent attitude towards the new art meant he never stopped using photography.

Despite being intended as simple documents, the quality and unorthodox style of many of Ruskin's daguerreotypes will come as a revelation to both photographic historians and Ruskin scholars. There are exemplars, however, within the history of both painting and photography that provide a historical and aesthetic framework within which Ruskin's work can be located.

The lecture on 3 June will be followed by a reception 6-7pm in the Visiting Scholars' Centre, Weston Library (2nd floor). Registration is required.


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