Musée d'Orsay: Julia Margaret Cameron Mrs. Herbert Duckworth

Julia Margaret Cameron
Mrs. Herbert Duckworth

Mrs Herbert Duckworth, also known as Julia Jackson, Virginia Woolf's mother
Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)
Mrs Herbert Duckworth, also known as Julia Jackson, Virginia Woolf's mother
Carbon print after a wet collodion glass negative
H. 39.8; W. 25.5 cm
© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

Mrs. Herbert Duckworth

A highly educated friend of many leading figures of the British intelligentsia, Cameron soon demonstrated her original gift for portraying the famous men of her day, magnified by her very personal aesthetic—including expressive fuzziness, the use of close-up shots and large formats making her faces almost life-size—which earned her both mockery and praise.

Tirelessly photographed by Cameron, her niece and goddaughter Julia Duckworth née Jackson is one of the very few women to have had the privilege of being able to remain herself in front of the camera—other female sitters were usually invited to lend their charming features to represent characters from the Bible, mythology, or literature.

A tribute to the puritan beauty and to the penetrating intelligence of a woman who posed for many painters, including Watts and Burne-Jones, this is also the portrait of a twenty-six-year-old widow, here pictured a few years before she remarried and gave birth to the writer Virginia Woolf and the painter Vanessa Bell.

It is one of the pictures that Cameron chose for reproduction using the carbon print process, supposed to ensure—by its inalterability—the preservation and dissemination of what the photographer considered to be the best works of her career.

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