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Julia Margaret Cameron
Portrait of Kate Keown
11 3/8 ins (28.9 cm.) (diameter) 20 3/4 x 16 7/8 ins (52.7 x 42.9 cm) (mount)
Swann Galleries - New York
Auction, October 25, 2016, #2426, Lot 38
A stunning print by Cameron in a scarce circular format. Cameron's circular prints were known as "tondos" (from the Italian rotondo or "round") and reference both Renaissance work and the Pre-Raphaelite paintings of her contemporaries.
This poetic work was the one of the first "life-sized heads" Cameron executed with a new larger-format camera and trimmed to the circular shape. Although Cameron's pictorial style continued to embody an inherent romanticism, this enlarged print size allowed her to render a subject more dramatically and pursue an investigation of the effects of sculptural lighting on her subject's faces. Her reliance on soft focus, intimate perspective, and slight movement imbue these portraits with startling life and spiritual resonance. She wrote in 1866, "I have just been engaged in that which Mr. Watts has always been urging me to do. A Series of Life sized heads--they are not only from the Life, but to the Life, and startle the eye with wonder & delight." (Cox 64-65).
In Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs (J. Paul Getty Museum, cat. no. 875), scholar Julian Cox locates a carte-de-visite version of this portrait, a reduced albumen print in the Isle of Wight County Council Miniature Album, a print at the Yale Unversity Beinecke Library, and a large-format print in the Gilman Collection (which is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).