Clementina, Lady Hawarden was one of the pioneer women of photography, acclaimed in her life-time by many of her contemporaries, including Lewis Carroll. Her primary subjects were her daughters, whom she carefully posed to produce studies of mood, ambience and sensuality. These enchanting images explore an intimate world of Victorian womanhood.
Lady Hawarden experimented with composition and light with a freedom denied to professional portrait photographers of the time. Reviewing her work in 1865, a critic for the Photographic News noted: ‘These pictures... are so full of grace and beauty, so original in their style, so perfect in their photographic delicacy and excellence...’
After her death, Lady Hawarden’s work fell into obscurity, but her work has now been rediscovered by a new generation: ‘Her photographs explore ideas of enclosure ... yet the sense of their confinement is not desperate; the photographs do not express hothouse oppression but rather the young women’s command of a potent inner life and a pleasurable complicity in their mother’s work.’ Marina Warner, critic and writer
© V&A Images / Victoria and Albert Museum. Exhibition originated by the V&A, London www.vam.ac.uk