Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Fall 2001 Newsletter

Henry Peach Robinson: Victorian Photographer

The Lady of Shalott, 1860-1861. Henry Peach Robinson. Albumen print from three negatives.

The Lady of Shalott, 1860-1861. Henry Peach Robinson.
Albumen print from three negatives.

Henry Peach Robinson (1830-1901) was one of the few photographers in nineteenth-century Britain who believed that photography could rival the "greatest" of the arts — oil painting — and he vigorously promoted this idea through his photographs and his writing. Robinson encouraged photographers to plan carefully and to produce images that looked like paintings. Sometimes this would necessitate mixing artificial elements with reality, such as costuming his models and posing them. He also advocated combination printing, a technique by which a photographer composed a complex picture by printing parts of several negatives together. But many critics felt that Robinson's works were dishonest because of their artificiality, and that they would ruin photography's chances to be respected as an art.

This exhibition examines Robinson's entire career. He began as an amateur painter and then later became an artistic and commercial photographer. The exhibition includes over 100 of Robinson's photographs and graphic works taken from the Gernsheim Collection of photographs at the Ransom Center. In his effort to create an artistic type of photography, Robinson based his subjects and compositions upon the themes of popular British genre paintings and illustrations. Throughout the exhibition are many examples of these popular images, reproduced from nineteenth century periodicals. The exhibition also places Robinson's works in the larger context of nineteenth century photography by including over 300 images by other photographers, such as Julia Margaret Cameron and Lewis Carroll.

— David Coleman, Assistant Curator of Photography & Film

This exhibition is free and open to the public at the Leeds Gallery, Fourth Floor, Flawn Academic Center through December 18. Keepsake booklets are available at the Gallery and at the Ransom Center administrative offices.


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