‘Victorian Giants: The Birth Of Art Photography’: New NPG Exhibition Celebrates Four Victorian Photographers

'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography' will be a new exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery in 2018.

The National Portrait Gallery in London is getting ready to host the very special exhibition Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography, which promises to delve deeply into the work of four prominent Victorian photographers. The new NPG exhibition is set to run from March 1 to May 20, 2018 and will include a large amount of photography that has never been seen by the public before.

The four Victorian photographers that will be showcased at the new National Portrait Gallery exhibition include Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, perhaps better known today as Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), Lady Clementina Hawarden (1822-1865) and Oscar Rejlander (1813–1875).

The photographs to be featured in Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography will be taken from both public and private collections from around the world and The National Portrait Gallery exhibition of Victorian photographers will be taking a closer look at the relationships that existed between the four photographers, a first of its kind for such an exhibition of this kind according to Artlyst.

Excitingly, the NPG exhibition will also be the first in London that will be showing the work of Oscar Rejlander since his death. Rejlander, once hailed as the “father of art photography,” had a long career which included a collaboration with friend Charles Darwin on The Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

Oscar Rejlander's 'The Two Ways of Life', a combination print of 32 different images, circa 1857.

Oscar was also known for using a montage combination print of 32 different images for one photographic work, something easily achieved in Photoshop today, but a task that took the photographer six weeks to complete before his revolutionary The Two Ways of Life piece was completed.

Some of the sitters that will be included in the photographs of Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography exhibition will include such prominent and well-regarded Victorians as Alice Liddell, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ellen Terry, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Charles Darwin and Thomas Carlyle.

Lewis Carroll took this photograph of the Dante Gabriel Rossetti family in Chelsea in 1863.

Another intriguing and wholly new feature of The National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition will be the opportunity to see negatives once belonging to Lewis Carroll and Oscar Rejlander. In this way, visitors will be able to examine what occurred in between these Victorian photo shoots, a sort of behind the scenes journey into the action that was taking place with Carroll, Rejlander and those who sat for them.

Of note also are photographs taken by Lady Clementina Hawarden, a famous portrait photographer of the Victorian era. In fact, the Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography exhibition will be the first time that Hawarden’s work has been seen by the public since 1990, when both the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the V&A in London last exhibited her work.

Lewis Carroll reclining with Mrs. George MacDonald, wife of the eminent author, and the family's four children in 1862.

Lewis Carroll’s famous photographs of Alice Liddell, the inspiration behind the character of Alice in Wonderland, are a very special part of the National Portrait Gallery’s collection. Yet there are other photographs of Alice taken when she reached adulthood and which the public may not be familiar with. These will be another integral part of the NPG’s new exhibition on Victorian photography.

The Director of the National Portrait Gallery, Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, has spoken highly of the museum’s upcoming Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography exhibition.

“The National Portrait Gallery has one of the finest holdings of Victorian photographs in the world. As well as some of the Gallery’s rarely seen treasures, such as the original negative of Lewis Carroll’s portrait of Alice Liddell and images of Alice and her siblings being displayed for the first time, this exhibition will be a rare opportunity to see the works of all four of these highly innovative and influential artists.”

Julia Margaret Cameron's photograph of 17-year-old English actress Ellen Terry in 1865.

Lewis Carroll, Julia Margaret Cameron, Oscar Rejlander and Lady Clementina Hawarden were photographers who today appear to have evoked perfectly the Victorian atmosphere yet, at the same time, these photographers were exceedingly radical and experimental in the approach they took to their work at the time.

The National Portrait Gallery’s Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography exhibition offers a celebratory new look at these four artists who were working with the entirely new medium of photography in the Victorian era.

[Featured Image by Julia Margaret Cameron/Getty Images]