|Dates: ||1819 - 1895|
English photographer and publisher.
Trained as a printer in Norfolk, Cundall came to London at the age of sixteen. The young man took an interest in illustrated children’s books, first as an author, soon as a printer and publisher. He worked with Henry (later Sir Henry) Cole and many other budding artists who would later become royal academicians. Cundall is perhaps best known for his invention of the Christmas card in 1846. With his interest in book illustration, it is not surprising that Cundall would turn to photography. At a meeting of London’s Graphic Society in 1847, his photographs were displayed to great effect. The Athenaeum declared: “Nature was seen vieing with Art in the Portfolio of Calotypes, or Talbotypes, contributed by Mr. Cundall - containing views of Exeter, Canterbury, and other cathedrals - and displaying all the beauty of Gothic detail with the solemnity of effect which their time-stained fronts wear. Views of some Dutch towns and rivers, and transcripts of shipping and other craft, gave a good idea of the fidelity with which such matters are representable by the powers of this art. In the landscapes we saw a great advance.” Cundall joined the Calotype Society in 1847 and the Photographic Society in 1854. He exhibited regularly, sometimes with partners, usually in collodion but also displaying works in waxed paper in 1854, and he took part in the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Cundall was a pioneer in photographic book illustration, a venture fraught with peril in the days when print stability was far from assured. Thomas Sutton, the outspoken editor of Photographic Notes, said in 1857: “Mr. Cundall has been the most spirited adventurer in this line, and he has contrived, by sun printing . . . to illustrate two editions of Mr. Delamotte’s ‘Practical Photography.’ The negatives were superb. . . . Nothing could be finer. But what has become of the prints? That in my copy has turned so yellow that it makes one sick to look at it.” Active in photography throughout his career, Cundall accepted the post of supervisor of publications at the South Kensington Museum, London, in 1866, continuing in this civil service position until close to the end of his life.
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007)
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission.
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012.
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