6 November 2023
Julia Margaret Cameron: “Arresting Beauty”
A lecture on the exhibition at the Jeu de Paume, Paris
(until 28 January 2024)
with Sylvie Koneski
“My aspiration is to ennoble photography and to inscribe its particularity and its uses in the fine arts by associating the real and the ideal, and, without sacrificing truth, through a total dedication to poetry and beauty.”
Julia Cameron is considered one of Britain's most important portrait artists of the 19th century and one of the most innovative and influential photographers of all time. A visionary woman in a male-dominated field, she pioneered the use of close-up, made portraiture her subject, sought inspiration in art as varied as Italian Renaissance painting and Victorian poetry, and cherished beauty above technical perfection. The timeless work of Cameron, who adopted photography at the age of 48 when her daughter gave her her first camera, was produced in barely a decade, between 1864 and 1875.
The Jeu de Paume is presenting her first major retrospective in Paris, showcasing nearly a hundred photographs. The major thematic categories of her work are her poetic interpretations of Madonnas, and illustrations of the Bible, Shakespearian plays or Tennyson's Idylls of the King. Among Cameron's photographs are also intimate studies of her own family, especially her niece Julia Jackson, future mother of Virginia Woolf, and powerful portraits of Victorian artists, writers, and scientists, including historian Thomas Carlyle, astronomer Sir John Herschel, naturalist Charles Darwin, poets Robert Browning, Henry W. Longfellow and painter G. F. Watts.
Her closeness to those she photographed, her desire to capture more than just the façade, her tightly shot faces, have influenced today's most famous photographers, including Annie Leibovitz, Cindy Sherman and Nan Goldin.
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