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Julia Margaret Cameron
35.0 x 28.1 cm. (13 3/4 x 11 1/16 in.)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949, Accession Number: 49.55.324
Curatorial description (Accessed: 21 Sept 2017)
Cameron long wished to photograph the brilliant but controversial historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) and ultimately took her camera to London to do so. “When I have had such men before my camera,” she wrote, “my whole soul has endeavored to do its duty towards them in recording the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man. The photograph thus taken has been almost the embodiment of a prayer.” Cameron inscribed Herschel’s print of this powerful image: “Carlyle like a rough block of Michelangelo’s sculpture.” Carlyle, on the other hand, wrote of it to Cameron: “Terrifically ugly and woe-begone, but has something of likeness: my candid opinion.”
Before Cameron and her husband moved to Ceylon in 1875, she contracted with the Autotype Company in London to produce copy negatives of seventy of her most iconic images (many original negatives having deteriorated) and to publish positives from them for sale to the public in the more permanent process of carbon printing. This print, one such example, belonged to Alfred Stieglitz, who found Cameron’s work to be in harmony with his own ideas about artistic photography. He published this image and others in his luxurious journal Camera Work in 1913.