Julia Jackson, 1867 Albumen print. 26.4 x 20.7cm (10 3/8 x 8 1/8in).
Provenance: Sotheby's Belgravia, 26 June 1975, lot 55 Acquired from the above by the present owner
Literature: Cox, J. & Ford, C., Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs (London: Thames & Hudson, 2003), cat. no. 307 Wolf, S., Julia Margaret Cameron's Women (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1998), p.73, plate 59
There are two sides to the work of Julia Margaret Cameron: one is concerned with the revivification of biblical, classical or literary story and fictional tableau; the other is centred around what she called her pictures "from life", where we see her dismiss the stiff conventions of portraiture to produce candid, intimate images. One such image from life is this of her niece and goddaughter, Julia Jackson (1846-1895), of whom there are more than fifty known portraits by Cameron, the earliest dating from 1864. Devoid of the ornate costume and fictional guise adopted by so many of Cameron's sitters, the images of Jackson are consistently faithful to the subject's real, unadorned character; Jackson was a source of genuine fascination for her photographer aunt.
Born in Calcutta, Julia Jackson was the third and youngest daughter of Cameron's younger sister, Maria (Mia) Pattle and John Jackson. Aged two, Jackson moved to England with her family and in 1866 they took up residence in Saxonbury Lodge, a country house in Kent. In the spring of 1867 Cameron visited the Jackson clan, where she took a series of studies of the twenty-one year old Julia, who had recently become engaged to the barrister Herbert Duckworth. Duckworth was to die tragically from a seizure only a few years later and, in 1870, widowed at twenty-four and pregnant with her third child, Julia lost her faith and dedicated herself to the care of her now invalid mother. Her compassion served only to make her a greater object of fascination for Cameron and others of the Little Holland House circle, including George Frederic Watts and Edward Burne-Jones, for whom she was model and muse. In 1878 Julia married the intellectual and author Sir Leslie Stephen, and with Stephen she had four children, including Vanessa (Bell) and Virginia (Woolf). Virginia Woolf was later to immortalise her mother as Mrs Ramsay in her classic novel, To the Lighthouse (1927).
Cameron made at least two negatives from the Spring 1867 sitting showing Jackson full-face with hair down. One depicts Jackson with her head tilted downwards in a display of intimacy and tenderness. The other shows her confronting the viewer directly with a gaze that is altogether more defiant and powerful. Cameron was keen to show that the Victorian woman was not inward with a stony reserve but rather that she could exhibit myriad feelings that went against the stereotype of the period. The photographer employed a reversal technique to produce several variations from each negative - these are believed to be the only examples in her work of this technique, which she later abandoned in favour of soft focus to achieve the same ethereal results.
The other recorded versions of this image are in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Henry Taylor Album), and a private collection in the UK (Norman Album).