Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: Julia Margaret Cameron at the V&A

I learned a few new things about the Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron at the preview of the exhibition of her photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum - which opened last week.

Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition at V&A
View of the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition
There are currently two exhibitions about Cameron in the museums of South Kensington
Drawn entirely from the world-class National Photography Collection, the exhibition features the Herschel Album (1864), a sequence of 94 images which Cameron considered to be her finest work to date.Science Museum: Julia Margaret Cameron: Influence and Intimacy
If you're going to one I'd recommend you also see the other as well. (Although I personally diverted via the amazing ceramic collection on the 6th floor to the art of the Bauer Brothers - in the Images of Nature Gallery next door at the Natural History Museum).

However a number of the reviews listed at the end are by people who "did the double".

Things I learned about Cameron the photographer included:
  • she was a mother of six who took up photography at the age of 48
  • her first camera was a gift from her daughter and son in law
"It may amuse you, Mother, to try to photograph during your solitude at Freshwater." 
  • 2015 marks 
    • the bicentenary of her birth in 1815
    • the 150th year since her first and only museum exhibition at the V&A in 1865
Within two years Cameron had sold and given her photographs to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) and in 1868, the Museum granted her the use of two rooms as a portrait studio.
Henry Cole, Julia Margaret Cameron, c. 1868 
© Royal Society of Art, London
  • She had a good relationship with Henry Cole, the Director of the South Kensington Museum 
  • She became the V&A's first artist in residence when she was granted use of two room within the precincts of the Museum to use as a portrait studio. Here she used to photograph people who lived in London
  • she was an innovator:
    • she pioneered the close up and close cropped portrait and, as a result, influenced the photographers of today
    • she created photographs which resembled paintings
    • she was the first photographer to take a photograph deliberately out of focus
  • she was also none too bothered about fingerprints on photographs!
  • she was a friend of a number of eminent Victorians - artists, thinkers and scientists.
I found one of the most difficult things with this exhibition was trying to keep in mind the difference between Cameron's own photographs and those of the typical Victorian photographer. I think I could have done with a bit of context to highlight the contrast in practice.

The exhibition is structured around four letters sent by Cameron to Cole and has four sections - which focus around:
  • her early aspirations and photographs
  • how she began to develop both confidence in portraiture and innovation in terms of techniques
  • the need to earn money from her photographs and in particular photographic portraits
  • an insight into her working methods
The exhibition includes groups of photographs around a particular theme

Fancy Subjects for Pictorial Effects - covers a set of photographs which either strive to interpret paintings or otherwise employ some device for pictorial effect.

Circe, Julia Margaret Cameron, 1865
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
One of these was her Madonna Groups

The Madonna Groups
Fortune as well as fame - Cameron started out with the notion that she could make money from her photographs. Indeed one of the things which came across to me quite strongly in the exhibitions was that this was a woman who had an eye on every angle and wasn't above exploiting every connection she had.

This exhibition includes a number of large format portraits. Cameron counted a number of eminent Victorians as friends - the scientists Charles Darwin and Sir John Herschel; the painter G. F. Watts; the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson (who was her neighbour at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight); and the historian and philosopher Thomas Carlyle. The exhibition includes the photographs she took of them

I personally liked her portraits much better than her 'arty' photographs.

Charles Darwin, Julia Margaret Cameron, 
1868, printed 1875
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Whisper of the Muse, Julia Margaret Cameron, 1865 - a portrait of the painter GF Watts who Cameron considered to be her chief artistic inspiration.
Here he is receiving a whisper of inspiration
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Julia Jackson, Julia Margaret Cameron, 1867
later Julia Stephen, Cameron's niece, her favourite subject, and the mother of the author Virginia Woolf
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The last section is devoted to "Her Mistakes or Her Successes" referencing the aspects of her technique which would have been mistakes in other people's eyes but which became an intrinsic part of her working approach. She used very careful lighting, soft focus and long exposures to make her photographs somehow seem more real.

This section also includes a recently discovered set of photographs which used to belong to GF Watts which show the flaws in her approach at the most extreme and also the outcomes of the technical challenge of working with potentially hazardous chemicals.

A set of "Defective Unmounted Impressions"
I also learned that the Victoria and Albert Museum was the first museum in the world to create a permanent collection of photographs - and to exhibit photographs as works of art.

It's certainly a Museum with a special place in the history of photography as a visual art.  This is the subject hub for photography at the V&A on the V&A website.

More information

Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world by Marta Weiss has been published to accompany the exhibition.
These are links to:

Other reviews

Friday, November 27, 2015

Selected Artists - The Columbia Threadneedle Prize 2016

The names of the artists and artwork selected for The Columbia Threadneedle Prize have been announced. You can find them below - along with some of the images of the artwork

The last Threadneedle Prize awards Dinner - in the middle of the exhibition
at the Mall Galleries
You will recall I posted the The Columbia Threadneedle Prize - Call for Entries back in July. This week those who entered the competition got to find out who has been selected for the exhibition from 3 to 20 February 2016 at the Mall Galleries in London.

There's also going to be a second exhibition of many of the works at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (the city’s largest temporary exhibition space), for a special four-week exhibition opening in June 2016.

I know some of the artists selected below - and I've been drawn by one of them!

If you've been selected and would like an image of your artwork featured in this blog post please get in contact (how to contact me details are in the side column)

Two Works

  • Maria Bowers - studied graphic design at Bath College of Higher Education (1991) completed a MA in Multidisciplinary Printmaking at UWE, Bristol; regular exhibitor at Royal West of England Academy
    • Justice (photo etching)
    • Lily (photo etching)
  • Lewis Chamberlain b.1966 Studied at Slade; won First Prize Discerning Eye 2001
    • Play Horse
    • To Mark An Occasion
Lewis is celebrated for his hyper-realistic pencil drawings which can take as much as four years to complete
  • Tomas Clayton b.1957 - portrait painter in oils and freelance graphic designer and illustrator. I've seen his work before and was very impressed by it and featured it in this blog post about the 2012 annual exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters
    • Apres La Guerre  - see below
    • Chere Capucine - see below
Apres la guerre 1915-2015
Oil on Masonite, 50cm x 53cm
Copyright Tom Clayton
‘Chère Capucine 1915-2015′
Oil on Masonite, 68cm x 75cm
Copyright Tom Clayton
  • Stephen Read Lives and works in England. Exhibited in Threadneedle Prize in 2009
    • Hut 21
    • Too Much Intelligence
Hut 21
oil on board, 95 x 120 cmcopyright Stephen Read
Too Much Intelligence
oil on board, 95 x 120 cm
copyright Stephen Read

One Work


What is Planted
chacoal and sanguine, 180 x 90cm
copyright Thomas Allen
  • Claire Anscomb - Noel Carroll - Works in graphite. Selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2013 and the Threadbeedle Prize in 2014
  • Edward Anthony - Ron Arad
  • Yuki Aruga - Severance (see below) - b.1985 in London and lives and works in London.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Make art in Rome - on a scholarship!

Would you like to spend a month in Rome with a studio, room and board provided?

This post is about opportunities to spend time in Rome painting - supported by a scholarship or other Funding.

The Forum Seen from the Farnese Gardens (1826) by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
H. 0.28 m; W. 0.50 m

The RBA Rome Scholarship 2016

The prize is presented with a view to offer an enriching learning experience for a young graduate as well as improving their profile as an emerging artist.

Who is eligible:

  • painters, printmakers or sculptors
  • in their final year or within 3 years of graduation

Deadline for entry: December 31st 2015

What's on offer:

  • Four weeks at Sala Uno, a highly prestigious gallery and international arts centre in the heart of Rome. This is The Gallery
  • Accommodation is in a self-contained apartment, situated within a wonderful and extensive walled garden in the grounds of the gallery
  • Studio space will be available within the gallery
  • Half-board, breakfast and evening meal, is provided at a nearby restaurant
  • Return flights are included

Conditions for entry:

  • Application:
  • First stage: select 20 artists from the entire entry 
  • Second Stage - an Exhibition: the 20 semi-finalists are invited to send exhibit work at the "RBA Rising Stars" exhibition at The Gallery@Lloyd's Register (February to March 2016), in the City of London. 
    • All works may be for sale [no commission taken by Lloyd's or the RBA] (This is a link to the 2015 exhibition website).  
    • Exhibition space will be limited. Large scale works should be accompanied by smaller works
    • Due to the location of The Gallery at Lloyd's Register (i.e.) it's a ‘walk through’ for various businesses situated in the building), they request that exhibits should not include naked forms or subject matter which may give offence to certain groups
    • Semi-finalists are responsible for the delivery and collection of their own works
  • Third Stage: Select four finalists to 
    • interview at the Mall Galleries, in central London. Finalists should bring with them any sketchbooks or journals demonstrating their exploration of techniques or development of their ideas
    • exhibit one work (for sale) at the RBA Annual Exhibition in March
  • Awardwinner: the winning candidate will be announced by the President of the RBA at the Private View.
Sponsor: The Royal Society of British Artists is able to offer this major scholarship through a bequest from the late Mr. G H Benn in memory of his late wife Marianne Von Werther(1901-1984), a former member of the RBA.

Further Information:

More Rome Sholarships in 2016-17

The British School at Rome also offer scholarships for longer periods of time for

Visual Arts Awards by The Britis School at Rome

Who is eligible: 

  • artists at different stages of their careers

What's on offer: 

  • an opportunity to research and focus on their work away from normal pressures, and to use the BSR as a base to explore Rome and Italy.
  • Awards include board and accommodation in one of our purpose-designed artist’s studios which include a mezzanine bedroom and en-suite bathroom. 
  • Award-holders are required to live at the BSR throughout the period of the award.
The closing dates for residencies for 2015-16 were earlier this year. Information is still given below to show the range of awards usually available. Information upon the awards available for 2016-17 is being prepared. Please revisit this page in late November to see the latest details of the other awards available for 2016-17.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

£30,000 BP Portrait Award 2016 - How to enter and how to get selected

The Call for Entries for the BP Portrait Award 2016 was published yesterday on the National Portait Gallery website - so it's time to write my Annual Guide to how to enter and how to improve your chances of being selected! Many of those who've been selected in the past have told me they've found it very helpful.

The closing date for digital entries from artists all over the world is 2nd February 2016.

BP Portrait 2015 - after the Awards Ceremony
Second Prizewinner Michael Gaskell (for the 4th time!) (link is to a video interview with him)
with Peter Monkman (2009 Winner) who was one of the Judges in 2015
This year the image which will feature on the competition website's home page is that of second prizewinner Michael Gaskell who has now won second prize a total of four times!

What this post covers

This post covers:
  • 12 reasons why this is a competition worth entering - which includes details of the significan prize money
  • How to enter for those who don't like the small print. I won't cover every last detail - so you still have to read ALL the conditions but sometimes it helps to have an introduction first! :)
  • The Judges - plus a video of a judge explaining how the process works
  • How to get selected - my suggestions for how to improve your chances of selection. Plus a video of a past winner explaining the process and how it worked for her.
  • The Exhibition
  • links to past posts about previous BP Portrait Award winners and exhibition reviews on this blog going back to 2007

What's different in 2016

The major change this year is that the conditions and the rules now have a white background and are a lot easier to read. 

For those who didn't enter last year the major change in 2015 was that postal entries are no longer accepted and the entry is process is digital.

If any of you spot anything else that has changed please leave a comment and I'll do an update.

BP Portrait 2015: Judges's Choice for First Prize on the left
'Annabelle and Guy' by Matan Ben Cnaan,  
Winner of the BP Portrait Award 2015 Visitors' Choice on the right
'Juanito' by José Luis Corella
Photo © Katherine Tyrrell

12 great reasons to enter the BP Portrait Award 2016

This is a "game changer" of a prize. It typically has a very positive impact on the careers of artists who win the top prize - for all the reasons listed below

23rd November 2015: Who's made a mark?

A round-up of recent posts about art, artists, art exhibitions and news relevant to art by me and others in newspapers, journals, blogs and Facebook

A new exhibition Artist & Empire opens at Tate Britian this week.
Mahadaji Sindhia entertaining a British naval officer and military officer with a Nautch c.1815-20
Anonymous Delhi School
Watercolour on paper, 222 x 317 mm | British Library

The most popular posts I've shared on facebook this month have been to do with 'being an artist' and the value of art.

They are:
  • RECOMMENDED: Laura Cumming's article in The Observer about The seven ages of an artist. The article - besides commenting on the observations of several famous articles - links to a number of other articles about interviews with seven leading artists (aged 24 to 80) who were asked what they haved learned from a life in art
Degas “Everyone has talent at 25, the difficulty is to have it still at 50.

Art Competitions & Call for Entries

Larry Lamb with his exhibition within the exhibition

Art Competitions

Call for Entries

Art Business & Marketing

Branding & Communication

Know Your Worth

  • This article Watch What Happens When You Ask Non-Creative Professionals to Work for Free has a great video which highlights why visual artists - including artists and photographers - should be a bit more circumspect before giving away their services for free. 
    • Bottom line if you consider yourself to be a professional then behave like one!
    • Also remember to treat others in the visual arts fields as professionals as well eg photographers and fine art printers. As one person pointed out below....
This includes the printing industry. Especially when a client wants to make a change after they send they receive the proof. They want to know why it will cost more money. If I had a dime for every time I had to explain that I'd be retired.

Selling Art

I've highlighted a number of aspects of new information on my new Art Business Info. for Artists website recently on its new blog. These are:
  • The first blog post covers a couple of guides for those wanting to sell their art via exhibitions or art fairs. These are:
  • A Guide to Art Agents, Art Buyers and Art Consultants - for all those wanting to know about whether agents can help them sell art. 
    • It defines the different roles of the different players in the marketplace e.g. how to find an agent, what they can do for artists and how they work​
    • It gives you checklists eg Are you ready for an agent? and Working with an art agent
    • It provides a list of reference articles where you can find different perspectives and more in-depth information
  • Another page provides checklists of things to think about for those wanting to think about Selling Art from Home


  • Dorothy Una Ratcliffe Fellowship 2016: The National Trust have a 3–month fellowship for an artist/illustrator (individual or collaborative) at Acorn Bank near Penrith, in the Lake District during the spring months of 2016. The deadline for applicants is Monday 30 November 2015, 5pm

Art History, Museums & Exhibitions

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