Friday, August 16, 2013

Photography - Lady Elizabeth Eastlake

I came across a wonderful monograph on photography which I thought I would share with you. Written by Elizabeth Eastlake in 1857 for the London Quarterly Review . Elizabeth Eastlake was a writer, critic and historian,  the wife of Sir Charles Eastlake the director of the National Gallery. The article paints a vivid picture of photography in its hey day, just 18 years after is announcement to the world in 1839. Here is an extract, I think you will find it fascinating...


From the London Quarterly Review, April 1857,
pp. 442-68 
It is now more than fifteen years ago that
specimens of a new and mysterious art were first
exhibited to our wondering gaze. They consisted
of a few heads of elderly gentlemen executed in
a bistre-like colour upon paper. The heads were
not above an inch long, they were little more
than patches of broad light and shade, they
showed no attempt to idealise or soften the
harshnesses and accidents of a rather rugged
style of physiognomy--on the contrary, the eyes
were decidedly contracted, the mouths expanded,
and the lines and wrinkles intensified.
Nevertheless we examined them with the keenest
admiration, and felt that the spirit of Rembrandt
had revived. Before that time little was the
existence of a power, availing itself of the eye of
the sun both to discern and to execute, suspected
by the world--still less that it had long lain the
unclaimed and unnamed legacy of our own Sir
Humphry Davy. Since then photography has
become a household word and a household want;
is used alike by art and science, by love,
business, and justice; is found in the most
sumptuous saloon, and in the dingiest attic--in
the solitude of the Highland cottage, and in the
glare of the London gin-palace in the pocket of
the detective, in the cell of the convict, in the
folio of the painter and architect, among the
papers and patterns of the millowner and
manufacturer, and on the cold brave breast on the
The link to the article on here