If you happen to be in New York between now and early May, you might find this exhibit a charming stop. If not, go to The Metropolitan Museum of Art's web site and see some very interesting examples of the work in the exhibit. There is also a catalog if you find yourself carried away with how aristocratic Victorian women were combining photographs and watercolors, long before 20th-century artists took up the medium.
There is a great deal of imagination displayed in images like a giant butterfly whose wings display small albumen silver prints of gentlemen. The watercolor work is vivid. The artist is Marie-Blanche-Hennelle Fournier (French 1831-1906). You might think of your own scrapbooking in a way. But for us photography is as ordinary as white bread. Not so for these women. This was a fascination with something new and obviously challenging.
My personal favorite is "Diamond Shape with Nine Studio Portraits of the Palmerston Family and a Painted Cherry Blossom Surround." It is the work of Frances Elizabeth, Viscountess Jocelyn (English 1820-1880). The portraits are Victorian--the costumes enchanting. However, the composition and the artful way the photographs combine with the artwork is a such a happy combination. Apparently, this was done for the Jocelyn family album.
As many of you know, Queen Victoria's own watercolors of her life, and especially of her children, are delightful and illustrate the fact that all upper class and royal women were instructed in the arts. The exhibition includes another royal, Alexandra, Princess of Wales (English b. Denmark, 1844-1925). The photographs are a tumble of life as lived in and around palaces. (Who can resist Victorian children?) The border is composed of painted ribbons. It just might give you an idea how to frame your own collage of photos of your family. Save those snippets of holiday ribbons and see where it takes you.
I never see things like this exhibit without trying to find a way to make my life and my work a little more interesting.
Enjoy the exhibit here, online at the Met, or in person if you happen to find yourself on Fifth Avenue. And how are you archiving your family's record? I know that cardboard boxes are passe and digital files are the way of the world. What would our Victorian ladies have done with this challenge?