Carnegie Museum of Art Announces Major Promised Photography Gifts

Lynn Zelevansky, The Henry Heinz II Director of Carnegie Museum of Art, announced today the promised gifts of six photographs and one glass plate negative from the collection of William Talbott Hillman. Five photographs are currently on loan to the museum for its groundbreaking exhibition Impressionism in a New Light: From Monet to Stieglitz, and will soon be joined by two additional, very rare images of Alice Liddell, taken by none other than Lewis Carroll.

This promised gift includes:
David O. Hill, Scottish, 1802–1870, and Robert Adamson, Scottish, 1821–1848; John Hope Finlay, 1845, salt print

Hill and Adamson were the first to fully explore the potential of William Henry Fox Talbot’s invention of the negative–positive process in photography. Together they made compelling portraits in their outdoor studio in Edinburgh, Scotland, including this lovely image of young John Hope Finlay. It was made in 1845, just six years after the invention of photography, when exposure times were still quite long. Children who had a hard time standing still were a particular challenge to photographers of the period, so a child sleeping—as in this portrait—was an ideal subject.

Roger Fenton, British, 1819–1869; The Princess Royal and Princess Alice, 1855, salt print

Fenton’s portrait of two princesses is a beautiful, warm-toned print that is unusually large for the 1850s. Enlargement was not feasible at that time, since commercially available electricity had not yet been invented, so the negative for this print would have been the same size as the resulting positive print. Both princesses wear stylish hats, and their pensive expressions are typical of photographs made in the 1850s.

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), British, 1832–1898, Alice Liddell as a Beggar Maid, 1858, albumen print

In “The Beggar Maid” we see a young Alice at age seven or eight who is dressed rather provocatively as she stands on one foot in front of an exterior garden wall. Carroll selected this costume, and may have suggested the pose, too, although the expression on Alice’s face is hers alone. She seems to exude self-confidence in this celebrated image.

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), British, 1832–1898, Alice with Garland, 1860, glass negative

Carroll did not make portraits for professional purposes, but for the pleasure that he derived from the entire process, which he taught himself. In Alice with Garland, he used the labor-intensive wet collodion technique to produce this glass negative. According to Carroll’s diary entry, the length of exposure was 45 seconds, demonstrating that Alice Liddell was a patient sitter.

Julia Margaret Cameron, British, 1815–1879; Katie [Kate Keown], 1866, albumen print

Katie is a magnificent photographic portrait of a young girl in Victorian England. What is most remarkable is that Katie’s face, which fills the circular frame of the image, is nearly life size, something that was highly unusual for photographic portraits of the era. Careful viewing reveals movement in Katie’s eyes and a general softness of focus throughout the image that makes the young flesh seem palpable. Cameron consciously chose soft focus to create this hauntingly beautiful portrait of Kate Keown, one of her favorite young models.

Clarence H. White, American, 1871–1925; The Kiss, 1904, platinum print

Here we witness a scene of domestic bliss as a woman leans down to gently kiss her younger sister inside their home. White intentionally arranged soft lighting and soft focus to augment the tenderness of this precious moment.

Alfred Stieglitz, American, 1864–1946; View from 291, 1915, gelatin silver print

Stieglitz’s View from 291 is a nighttime scene taken from the rear of his famous Pictorialist gallery at 291 Fifth Avenue. A new skyscraper fills the background, with several windows illuminated. More modest buildings are in the foreground, closer to where Stieglitz positioned his camera, while a clothesline full of white laundry is barely visible in the evening light. The image offers a striking contrast between the large buildings that are emerging as part of New York’s new skyline and the human-scaled dwellings where clothespins are still in use.

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