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'Last chance' export ban on Rejlander album

An album of seventy photographs by Oscar Gustav Rejlander, one of the most important photographers of the 19th century is at risk of export unless a UK buyer can be found. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on the album of portrait and figurative photographs by Oscar Rejlander (1813-1875), which includes prints of “Trying to Catch a Fly” and “The Fly is Caught”, providing a last chance to keep it in the UK.

News of the album being offered at auction was reported exclusively at BPH last August - click here - and in a follow up post here.

Born in Sweden, Rejlander settled in England in the 1840s. His pioneering work in combination printing - combining several negatives to form one image - brought him wide renown, and earned him the moniker “the father of art photography”. A highly influential figure in his time, he was regarded by contemporaries as a major star of the photographic world.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

The Rejlander album is a truly remarkable compilation of images by one of the great pioneers of photography. I hope a UK buyer can be found so that the album can undergo further study here in the UK. It would also be a tremendous addition to the nation’s photographic archive.

The album contains an exceptional selection of Rejlander’s work. Whilst a few of the prints are well known and some can be found in other UK collections, the majority are previously unknown studies. The compiler of the album is currently a mystery, and further investigation into their identity and that of many of the sitters, as well as the album’s provenance, could reveal a wealth of information to researchers.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey took the decision to defer granting an export licence for the album following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by Arts Council England. The RCEWA made their recommendation on the grounds that it was of was of outstanding significance for the study of the history of photography and for our wider understanding of nineteenth century art.

Christopher Wright from the RCEWA said:

Rejlander was one of the most popular photographers of his day, famous for pioneering combination prints and for his illustrations in Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. This particular album, a rare survival, is known to have been shown to both Pope Pius IX and the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII), who was an enthusiastic collector of his work.

The decision on the export licence application for the album will be deferred for a period ending on 23 April 2015 inclusive. This period may be extended until 23 July 2015 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the album is made at the recommended price of £82,600.

Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the album should contact RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.

See a digital version of the album

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Comment by Pamela Cranston on February 25, 2015 at 12:55

re Rejlander album: £82,600 is a lot of money but not an enormous sum.  This may be simplistic, but could it not be bought for the nation via donations from several major institutions and or patrons?  

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