British photographic history

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Millais’s Portrait of Ruskin, Sarah Angelina Acland, and Photography

The announcement today of the acquisition by the Ashmolean Museum of John Everett Millais’s celebrated portrait of John Ruskin at Glenfinlas marks a final chapter in the history of a painting intimately associated with one of Ruskin’s pupils, the photographer Sarah Angelina Acland. Lent and bequeathed by Ruskin to Miss Acland’s father, Henry Wentworth Acland, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford, for three decades the portrait hung above Miss Acland’s writing desk in her home opposite the Sheldonian Theatre. The painting also served as a subject for her experiments in orthochromatic photography in the late 1890s, which she pursued in the spirit of the Pre-Raphaelites, whom she knew as a child.

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