Musée d'Orsay: A Victorian Photographer : Lady Hawarden (1822-1865)

A Victorian Photographer : Lady Hawarden (1822-1865)

Lady Clementina HawardenStudy from nature (Isabella Grace and Florence Maude)© Musée d'Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
The Musée d'Orsay presented a selection of around forty photographs from an exhibition organised by London's Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Council for the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the invention of photography. It was the first monographic event devoted to Lady Hawarden, one of the greatest English woman photographers of the 19th century, whose work Lewis Carroll admired and collected.

From 1856 onwards, Lady Hawarden set about practising amateur photography and very quickly mastered its technique. She chose her subjects from those around her : her estate in Dundrum, Ireland, where she took pictures of the peasants and, above all, her family. Her three elder daughters were the main actresses of the "living paintings" around 1862-1863, represented in romantic scenes, in their passage from childhood to adolescence.

Throughout her work, Lady Hawarden tried to exalt feminine beauty in its sensuality and its expressivity. Yet, in a characteristic way, she never gave her scenes precise titles. In spite of the clues given by the costumes or her models' gestures, the photographed scenes remain open to all sorts of interpretations, instead of fixing on any given theme. A resolutely modern photographer, Lady Hawarden was more interested in the treatment of light, mastering perfectly the many transparency effects, than in the narrative content of her photographs.


Virginia Dodier (London), Françoise Heilbrun, curator , Musée d'Orsay and Philippe Néagu, attaché principal, Musée d'Orsay

13 February - 29 April 1990
Musée d'Orsay

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