REJLANDER (OSCAR GUSTAVE) 'The Two Ways of Life', [c.1857]

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Lot 57
REJLANDER (OSCAR GUSTAVE)
'The Two Ways of Life', [c.1857]

Sold for £ 11,250 (US$ 15,526) inc. premium
REJLANDER (OSCAR GUSTAVE)
'The Two Ways of Life', large albumen print on 2 sheets joined, a few surface abrasions and spots, mounted, framed and glazed above a pencil caption in Rejlander's hand "A Pictorial Composition/from Nature/Dedicated to the Artists of England/by O.G. Rejlander", image 385 x 727mm., [c.1857]

Footnotes

  • One of the most controversial photographs of the nineteenth century, The Two Ways of Life was an important image in the history of photo montage, and the narrative of "Art photography". Rejlander's aim with The Two Ways of Life was to counter the criticism aimed at photography that it was merely a mechanical art not worthy of comparison with painting. He printed the composition from thirty separate negatives of single figures, groups, and different backgrounds, arranging them to form one large tableau. Whilst Queen Victoria approved of the results, purchasing a copy for her husband Albert when it was exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasure Exhibition (1857), the photograph "provoked heated discussions in photographic circles. Some called the picture 'the symbol of a new era in in photography'; some doubted the suitability of combining a number of negatives in one composition; others questioned the propriety of treating such subjects photographically, or complained of the semi-nudity of some of the models" (Gernsheim, The Rise of Photography 1850-1880, revised edition 1988, p.38). The Photographic Society of Scotland was so outraged that it initially refused to exhibit the picture, before reluctantly agreeing to hang it behind a curtain. An elaborate allegory of the choice between the life of virtue and that of vice (in this version the central figure of a philosopher looks towards vice, in a later version he looks to virtue), this copy is captioned in the photographer's hand "A Pictorial Composition/from Nature/Dedicated to the Artists of England/by O.G. Rejlander".

    Provenance: Purchased in Streatham (London), by the vendor's grandfather, in the 1920s. See illustration on preceding page.
Contacts
REJLANDER (OSCAR GUSTAVE) 'The Two Ways of Life', [c.1857]
REJLANDER (OSCAR GUSTAVE) 'The Two Ways of Life', [c.1857]
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